THE LONGEST DAY

CELEBRATING THE SUMMER SOLSTICE

In this fourth of a series (A New Beginning, 2008, etc.), science, myth and custom merge into a celebratory introduction to the Summer Solstice. As summer approaches, bison shed winter coats, mountain goats move to summer pastures and butterflies emerge from cocoons. Simultaneously, people move outdoors to picnic and play in the growing sunlight. Pfeffer transitions from familiar summer activities into scientific concepts about the earth’s orbital position on or about June 21, which produces the longest day. She segues into myths of the Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Greek sun gods and introduces ancient monuments erected to the solstice, such as the Chumash Indian House of the Sun, Stonehenge, New Hampshire’s Mystery Hill and the Plains Indian Bighorn Medicine Wheel. From myths and monuments, the author moves to celebrations: Lithuanian fire wheels, Germanic bonfires, Bohemian flower wreaths, Swedish midsummer poles and Alaskan “Polar Bear” swims, ending with lawn sprinklers and beach sand. Bleck’s sprightly, colorful illustrations offer a visual celebration as they faithfully track the text. A comfortable, multidimensional investigation of the Summer Solstice that transcends time and place. (facts, activities) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-525-42237-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2010

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GINGERBREAD BABY

In a snowbound Swiss village, Matti figures it’s a good day to make a gingerbread man. He and his mother mix a batch of gingerbread and tuck it in the oven, but Matti is too impatient to wait ten minutes without peeking. When he opens the door, out pops a gingerbread baby, taunting the familiar refrain, “Catch me if you can.” The brash imp races all over the village, teasing animals and tweaking the noses of the citizenry, until there is a fair crowd on his heels intent on giving him a drubbing. Always he remains just out of reach as he races over the winterscape, beautifully rendered with elegant countryside and architectural details by Brett. All the while, Matti is busy back home, building a gingerbread house to entice the nervy cookie to safe harbor. It works, too, and Matti is able to spirit the gingerbread baby away from the mob. The mischief-maker may be a brat, but the gingerbread cookie is also the agent of good cheer, and Brett allows that spirit to run free on these pages. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23444-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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GRETCHEN GROUNDHOG, IT'S YOUR DAY!

A good choice for curriculum-boosting an underrated holiday. Poor Gretchen Groundhog is very shy, but this year, it’s her turn to pop out of the hole on February 2nd to tell everyone whether there will be six more weeks of winter or an early spring. Great-Uncle Gus, too old for the job, offers Gretchen plenty of encouragement, but she just doesn’t think she can manage with all those people. Then her human friend, Hester, the town historian’s daughter, comes to visit with a box of old writings. Gretchen reads the words of other shy groundhogs from the past, e.g., Goody Groundhog who came on the Mayflower, George Groundhog who served at Valley Forge, etc. Gretchen realizes that she can face the crowds, just as her illustrious ancestors did, even before the official inauguration of Groundhog Day in 1887. Illustrations in soft pencil show appealing townspeople, an elegantly dressed little groundhog, and a charming burrow, complete with a picture window, stone fireplace, and a computer with Internet access (“You Have Mail”). Simple and sweet. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8075-3058-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998

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