SONG BIRD

Mollel (Kitoto the Mighty, 1998, etc.) skillfully reshapes this African tale about a magical bird that defeats a cow-stealing monster. Mariamu’s family can’t understand why their cattle are disappearing. One day, when clearing a field to grow food, Mariamu hears a magical bird singing. The bird tells her if she will spare the land (and the bird’s eggs), the bird will help restore milk to Mariamu’s family. Mariamu agrees, and the magical bird brings back the original field, and fills all the jugs and gourds with milk. Then Mariamu’s parents get greedy, capturing the bird while visions of an endless milk supply dance in their heads. Mariamu, of course, rescues the bird, and it is so grateful that it leads the girl to the monster who has stolen all the cows; together they rescue the cattle. Mollel includes words in Swahili and some excellent sound effects: “birim” for the sound of empty gourds rolling, “gulum” for the sound of swallowing. This fleshing out of the old tale and Litzinger’s spry, expressive watercolors make a vibrant presentation, ideal for noisy story-hour reenactment. (Picture book/folklore. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-82908-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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THE COOKIE-STORE CAT

There is an ineffable sweetness in Rylant’s work, which skirts the edge of sentimentality but rarely tumbles, saved by her simple artistry. This companion piece to The Bookshop Dog (1996) relates how the cookie-store cat was found, a tiny, skinny kitten, very early one day as the bakers came in to work. The cat gets morning kisses, when the bakers tell him that he is “sweeter than any cookie” and “prettier than marzipan.” Then he makes his rounds, out the screen door painted with “cherry drops and gingerbread men” to visit the fish-shop owner, the yarn lady, and the bookshop, where Martha Jane makes a cameo appearance. Back at the cookie store, the cat listens to Father Eugene, who eats his three Scotch chewies and tells about the new baby in the parish, and sits with the children and their bags of cookies. At Christmas he wears a bell and a red ribbon, and all the children get free Santa cookies. The cheerful illustrations are done in paint as thick as frosting; the flattened shapes and figures are a bit cookie-shaped themselves. A few recipes are included in this yummy, comforting book. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-54329-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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SNOW BEAR

In this sweetly sentimental story set in the frozen twilight of an Arctic spring, George (Morning, Noon, and Night, p. 699, etc.) tells of an Inuit girl who goes out to hunt. Bessie Nivyek sets out with her big brother, Vincent, to hunt for food; in a twist out of McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal, Bessie bumps into a young bear, and they frolic: climbing, sliding, somersaulting, and cuddling. Vincent spies the tracks of his little sister and follows, wary of the mother bear; the mother bear is just as wary of Vincent. Out of the water rears danger to both the child and cub—a huge male polar bear. The mother bear warns her cub; it runs away, as does Bessie. Brother and sister head back home, “to eat, go to school, and learn the wisdom of the Arctic like Eskimo children do.” The brief text is lyrical and the illustrations are striking, with an impressively varied palette of white, in blue, green, yellow, and gold. Children who note that Vincent goes home empty-handed will wonder why he didn’t hunt any of the polar bears that were within range. While children will enjoy this romantic view of Bessie and the bear, those seeking a more realistic representation of life in this harsh environment will be unsatisfied. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7868-0456-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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