LETTERS TO ANYONE AND EVERYONE

In a set of surreal, mostly epistolary vignettes, Elephant begs permission to stand on Snail’s house (Snail politely declines), Crow writes a gloomy letter to Sparrow and gets a heartening response, Carp pens a prayer addressed: “Dear Stranger,” Squirrel writes to his table and also to the very letter he’s writing and on the last day of the year all of the animals get together to send a “cordial begging letter” to the sun, who answers “See you soon.” It’s hard to know what young readers will make of these and the other dozen or so exchanges; the prose has an introspective, dreamlike quality, but unlike Tellegen’s Squirrel’s Birthday and Other Parties (2009), there’s no clear linking theme to compensate for the lack of a plot arc or line, and the characters are etched in low relief at best. The author has been popular in the Netherlands for many years, but this outing is unlikely to extend the borders of his fan base. Illustrations not seen. (Belles lettres. 9-11)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-906250-95-9

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Boxer Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2009

Categories:

RED-EYED TREE FROG

Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

Categories:

KATT VS. DOGG

A waggish tale with a serious (and timely) theme.

An age-old rivalry is reluctantly put aside when two young vacationers are lost in the wilderness.

Anthropomorphic—in body if definitely not behavior—Dogg Scout Oscar and pampered Molly Hissleton stray from their separate camps, meet by chance in a trackless magic forest, and almost immediately recognize that their only chance of survival, distasteful as the notion may be, lies in calling a truce. Patterson and Grabenstein really work the notion here that cooperation is better than prejudice founded on ignorance and habit, interspersing explicit exchanges on the topic while casting the squabbling pair with complementary abilities that come out as they face challenges ranging from finding food to escaping such predators as a mountain lion and a pack of vicious “weaselboars.” By the time they cross a wide river (on a raft steered by “Old Jim,” an otter whose homespun utterances are generally cribbed from Mark Twain—an uneasy reference) back to civilization, the two are BFFs. But can that friendship survive the return, with all the social and familial pressures to resume the old enmity? A climactic cage-match–style confrontation before a worked-up multispecies audience provides the answer. In the illustrations (not seen in finished form) López plops wide-eyed animal heads atop clothed, more or less human forms and adds dialogue balloons for punchlines.

A waggish tale with a serious (and timely) theme. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-41156-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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