LITTLE WHITE DUCK

This favorite song, written in the 1950s, has been a kid-pleaser for generations, thanks to such song stylists as Danny Kaye, Burl Ives, and more recently, Raffi. It comes as no surprise, then, to find that the real news is the gorgeous new illustrations offered in an oversized format by the creator of other brightly appealing books such as What’s That Sound, Woolly Bear? (1996). Luscious collages in shimmery blues and greens, the lovely pink of the lily pad and the brilliant red of the snake fill the pages. Watercolor washes applied to textured or colored paper create a three-dimensional effect that has one almost reaching out to stroke the duck’s feathers. Set out as a playlet, the actors are introduced on the title page, and then the curtain opens. Readers follow the action and can sing along with the guitar-strumming river-rat narrator. They can quack along with the little white duck, glug with the little green frog (not so little here), buzz with the little black bug or hiss with the little red snake, the villain of the piece. This is a truly spectacular undertaking that deserves a wide audience. Bravo. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-316-03227-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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THE CIRCUS SHIP

Van Dusen’s rhyming text takes inspiration from an 1836 shipwreck, but fanciful fun, not tragedy, awaits readers here. The 15 animals aboard The Royal Star swim to an island off Maine after the ship runs aground and the circus’s owner, Mr. Paine, abandons them. At first they shock villagers and run mischievously amok. A fire in a farm shed—with little Emma Rose Abbott inside!—engenders a dramatic rescue by the tiger, whose skill in leaping through flames comes into play. Amusingly, animals and villagers collude to thwart Mr. Paine’s attempt to reclaim his menagerie. The verse is sprightly, but the pictures are the true stunners. Bright, lampooning gouaches (familiar from the Mercy Watson series) and dizzying perspective perfectly suit this picaresque tale. The reprehensible Mr. Paine is an apoplectic giant striding into the placid village at sunset. Huge, leaping flames dramatize the tiger’s riveting heroics. Children will pore over panoramic spreads that invite them to find each of the 15 animals and celebrate a denouement that serves up Mr. Paine’s just deserts. Splendid! (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3090-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2009

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A beautiful portrayal of a historic and arduous family journey northward

OVERGROUND RAILROAD

One family’s experience of the Great Migration.

Cline-Ransome and Ransome, a husband-and-wife author-and-illustrator team, have again collaborated on an important story from African American history. Narrator Ruth Ellen, Mama, and Daddy awaken early to travel to New York without the permission or knowledge of the landowner on whose land they sharecrop. (The author’s note mentions that landowners often used threats and violence to keep sharecroppers on the land and perpetually in debt.) The family boards the train with luggage, tickets, and food in a shoebox—since black folks cannot eat in the dining car and must sit in the colored section of the train. The conductor calls out the cities as they progress North. When the conductor removes the “whites only” sign near Baltimore, African Americans can sit wherever they want—though it takes some time before Ruth Ellen and her family find white riders who smile a welcome. Ruth Ellen reads Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass aloud to Mama on the train ride, a gift from her teacher that parallels her own family’s journey. Ransome’s watercolor-and-collage illustrations effectively capture both the historical setting and the trepidation of a family who though not enslaved, nevertheless must escape as if they were. Cotton bolls throughout the images accentuate cotton’s economic dominance in the sharecropping system.

A beautiful portrayal of a historic and arduous family journey northward . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3873-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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