WHEN BIRDS COULD TALK AND BATS COULD SING

THE ADVENTURES OF BRUH SPARROW, SIS WREN, AND THEIR FRIENDS

Joel Chandler Harris wasn't the only collector of African-American trickster tales; here are eight fables gathered (and some, perhaps, written) by Martha Young, his contemporary. Most of the lessons are pointed: Boasting that she can touch the sky, Brown Wren flies too high and has to be saved by larger birds; the "Still and Ugly Bat" was once beautiful but became so proud that she threw away her feathers and songs; Bruh Buzzard doesn't wait quite long enough for Fair Maid the horse to die. and gets a lick in the head that leaves him bald ever after. In several stories, birds help human or animal friends; when young Alcee Lingo gets the chills, Blue Jay and Swallow steal fire from old Firekeeper, and Cardinal gets his brilliant color by wiping blood from a hunter's near-miss off Bruh Deer. Hamilton (Her Stories, 1995, etc.) recasts the thick dialect of the originals into fluent, musical prose that demands to be read aloud, and to which Moser's exact, energetic paintings of brightly colored birds—all sporting bonnets or top hats and very human expressions—make perfect accompaniment. First published in local newspapers and not available in book form since the 1970s, these wry, comic, tender tales should at last find the wide audience they deserve. (Folklore. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-590-47372-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1996

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TOMAS AND THE LIBRARY LADY

A charming, true story about the encounter between the boy who would become chancellor at the University of California at Riverside and a librarian in Iowa. Tom†s Rivera, child of migrant laborers, picks crops in Iowa in the summer and Texas in the winter, traveling from place to place in a worn old car. When he is not helping in the fields, Tom†s likes to hear Papa Grande's stories, which he knows by heart. Papa Grande sends him to the library downtown for new stories, but Tom†s finds the building intimidating. The librarian welcomes him, inviting him in for a cool drink of water and a book. Tom†s reads until the library closes, and leaves with books checked out on the librarian's own card. For the rest of the summer, he shares books and stories with his family, and teaches the librarian some Spanish. At the end of the season, there are big hugs and a gift exchange: sweet bread from Tom†s's mother and a shiny new book from the librarianto keep. Col¢n's dreamy illustrations capture the brief friendship and its life-altering effects in soft earth tones, using round sculptured shapes that often depict the boy right in the middle of whatever story realm he's entered. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-80401-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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RIVER STORY

Trickling, bubbling, swirling, rushing, a river flows down from its mountain beginnings, past peaceful country and bustling city on its way to the sea. Hooper (The Drop in My Drink, 1998, etc.) artfully evokes the water’s changing character as it transforms from “milky-cold / rattling-bold” to a wide, slow “sliding past mudflats / looping through marshes” to the end of its journey. Willey, best known for illustrating Geraldine McCaughrean’s spectacular folk-tale collections, contributes finely detailed scenes crafted in shimmering, intricate blues and greens, capturing mountain’s chill, the bucolic serenity of passing pastures, and a sense of mystery in the water’s shadowy depths. Though Hooper refers to “the cans and cartons / and bits of old wood” being swept along, there’s no direct conservation agenda here (for that, see Debby Atwell’s River, 1999), just appreciation for the river’s beauty and being. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7636-0792-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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