A glimpse into Soviet children’s-book illustration; likely of more interest to scholars than to children.

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THE FIRE HORSE

Hot off the American presses comes this translated collection of three illustrated texts from the 1920s golden age of Soviet children’s-book publishing.

The titular text, by Mayakovsky, stands as the first chapter in this collection of tales, all translated by Ostashevsky. It tells the story of a little boy who wants a horse from a toyshop. The shop clerk tells him and his father, “No way, / We’re all out of horses today. / Still, / a horse of any color can / Be made by / a master artisan.” They then go to six different workers to get materials and specific expertise for building the toy horse. This story, like the other two in the book (Mandelstam’s “Two Trams” and Kharms’ “Play”), centers on themes of industry, modernity, and the dignity of work. In all cases, the art far outshines the text, which has a stilted sound, possibly due to poetics lost in translation. But pictures by Popova, Ender, and Konashevich, respectively, are wondrous to behold in their own right and as precursors to mid-20th-century Western picture-book art. Popova’s human figures are big, burly examples of Soviet manhood; their tools and the gathering team appear in brightly colored squares that offset their bulk. Ender’s gray, black, red, and blue illustrations are almost abstract in their depictions of the titular trams and their tracks. Konashevich’s figures are fluid and likely the most conventional-looking for modern American audiences.

A glimpse into Soviet children’s-book illustration; likely of more interest to scholars than to children. (Picture book. 6 & up)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68137-092-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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A beautiful, powerful reflection on a tragic history.

ON THE HORIZON

In spare verse, Lowry reflects on moments in her childhood, including the bombings of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. 

When she was a child, Lowry played at Waikiki Beach with her grandmother while her father filmed. In the old home movie, the USS Arizona appears through the mist on the horizon. Looking back at her childhood in Hawaii and then Japan, Lowry reflects on the bombings that began and ended a war and how they affected and connected everyone involved. In Part 1, she shares the lives and actions of sailors at Pearl Harbor. Part 2 is stories of civilians in Hiroshima affected by the bombing. Part 3 presents her own experience as an American in Japan shortly after the war ended. The poems bring the haunting human scale of war to the forefront, like the Christmas cards a sailor sent days before he died or the 4-year-old who was buried with his red tricycle after Hiroshima. All the personal stories—of sailors, civilians, and Lowry herself—are grounding. There is heartbreak and hope, reminding readers to reflect on the past to create a more peaceful future. Lowry uses a variety of poetry styles, identifying some, such as triolet and haiku. Pak’s graphite illustrations are like still shots of history, adding to the emotion and somber feeling. He includes some sailors of color among the mostly white U.S. forces; Lowry is white.

A beautiful, powerful reflection on a tragic history. (author’s note, bibliography) (Memoir/poetry. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-12940-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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