KOI AND THE KOLA NUTS

An irrepressible youth turns a missed opportunity into good fortune in this frenetic retelling of an African folktale from Aardema (This for That, 1997, etc.). When his father, the chief of his people, dies, Koi is out hunting and so misses the division of property among his brothers (including the distribution of ivory tusks), leaving him with a lone kola tree as his inheritance. Undeterred, Koi sees this as a chance to explore the world. On his journey, he encounters several creatures who are in need of assistance: a snake with a sick mother, a frantic army of ants fleeing the Forest Devil, and a penitent crocodile facing the wrath of the Rainmaker, whose dog he ate. Koi’s kola nuts are always the answer to the desperate animals’ prayers. When he comes upon the realm of Chief Fulikolli, a ragged Koi accepts the challenge of winning the hand of the chief’s daughter and one half of his chiefdom. With the aid of the grateful creatures, Koi performs three seemingly impossible tasks. Laced with the liberal humor that is Aardema’s hallmark, Koi’s story and his sturdy spirit will draw readers in, as will the many uses of the kola nut and the lesson of doing good for others. In Cepeda’s vibrant illustrations, the Liberian landscape glistens and its people dance across the page, while the last scene—of Koi as a chief—is a portrait of ebullience rewarded. (glossary) (Picture book/folklore. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-689-81760-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 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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