THE MAGIC BRUSH

A STORY OF LOVE, FAMILY, AND CHINESE CHARACTERS

In Chinese folklore, the theme of the artist who brings paintings to life is told again and again. In this contemporary family story, Agong (“Grandfather”) teaches his Chinese-American granddaughter Jasmine calligraphy as he creates mythological creatures and wonderful worlds for Jasmine to explore while Tai-Tai, her little brother, naps. After Agong dies, she shares the skill with Tai-Tai so they can re-create their wonderful artist-grandfather. There’s a lot to absorb here, and backmatter to accommodate: Chinese characters, pronunciation of Chinese words in the afterword (although the tones will be hard to repeat, despite the patient explanations) and the description of Chinese delicacies mentioned in the text. The short history of paper-cuts (used in the illustrations, along with rubber stamps and ink) will probably appeal more to adults than children. The flat designs incorporate both printed papers and key characters (which also appear in the page corners), but they never really bounce to life the way that they do in more traditional Chinese tales. Heartfelt and quite lovely, but not magical. (Picture book. 4-7)

 

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8027-2178-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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FLOWER GARDEN

A young girl carries a carton of potted flowers from the supermarket home and up the stairs; she and her father replant them in a window box and light candles on a birthday cake to surprise Mom when she comes wearily home from work. In Hewitt's expansive oil paintings, the girl's honey-brown face shines as brightly as the daisies and daffodils; Bunting's brief rhymed text ("Garden in a cardboard box/Walking to the bus/Garden sitting on our laps/People smile at us!") celebrates the child's contagious happiness, the warm response of everyone who sees her, and the pleasure of having "a color jamboree" of flowers in the window of an inner-city apartment, high above the street. A simple, pleasing episode with a contemporary subtext. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-15-228776-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1994

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