ELYMPICS

Kennedy’s deceptively facile verse amuses as it places under scrutiny a herd of elephants engaged in summer and winter Olympic sports. Runner Trinket wins sprinting by a nose, and gymnast Trixie, her ankle carefully bound up, handles backflips on the beam. Elfantina’s figure skating and Elmo’s ski-jumping capture the eye and the heart. The remarkable watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations communicate the particular geometric form of every sport—the crescent-moon curve of Elijah’s dive; the T-shape of Elfantina on ice; the whoosh of Tram in slalom—without sacrificing the elephantine personalities. The poetry cheerfully renders some specifics on sports, too: Eliza and Lenore are the volley “ball-wackers!” while Tram defines slalom as “all I did was go downhill/Not hitting anything.” The observations are immediate and funny. (Picture book/poetry. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23249-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1999

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THE SINGING SNOWBEAR

Grigg complements her first story for children with soft-edged, cool-hued watercolors that powerfully evoke the white-bound north. This tale of the polar Snowbear opens with a call to adventure, the summons of the mythic hero. This is a song of such haunting beauty that the young bear must follow it to its source, and so he does, leaving his mother and setting off across the ice floes. “Maybe I can make those sounds and fill myself with songs,” he tells his mother, to which she lovingly growls in a guardian-at-the-gate manner, “Bears don’t sing.” The hero cycle, as Joseph Campbell delineated it, is followed nearly exactly, from the lyrical opening and through the unfolding of Snowbear’s journey. Snowbear struggles through challenges, as his path is wracked with not only loneliness and uncertainty, but also with very real physical and emotional pain. When he finally finds the singer, a whale, it is trapped in ice from which Snowbear must rescue him. Readers will be primed for something special; delivered, instead, is a ditty of a whale mother’s song in which the two new friends begin to harmonize. This awakens all the Arctic to a stomping, swaying response that lasts until dawn, but isn’t captured on the page; the expected sense of triumph in the hero’s return never emerges. After giving themselves up to a story with such glorious underpinnings, readers will be disappointed by the ending. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-94223-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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CLICKETY CLACK

A train load of wild and wacky animals gets so noisy that the engineer has to shout to get them to quiet down. The little black train picks up yaks, acrobats, a troupe of ducks, and stomping elephants as passengers. But when two mice that are in to fireworks climb aboard, the engineer threatens to stop the whole train. “ ‘Keep it down!’ yells Driver Zach. ‘You’re giving me a headache attack!’ “ Everyone quickly hushes up, and soon, “the only sound you hear, in fact,/is the sound of the wheels on the railroad track. Clickety clack, clickety clack.” The words bounce along to the rhythm of a train on its way, and the swell of the sound effects makes this a joy to read aloud. Spengler’s robust illustrations capture an antic cast of passengers, conveying the action as much through composition as color. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-670-87946-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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