One man's life, from the time his farmer father brings his family to settle on an island in Maine till the end of his long, productive life, when he leaves his daughter and grandson—who are also content to live on the island. Cooney brings a rich texture to her beautifully shaped and cadenced story. Matthias, the youngest of 12 lively children, is the last to leave home (he spends years sailing the coast, trading commodities like bricks for the growing communities) and the only one to return. Unhackneyed incidents beautifully illuminate his character and surroundings: though told it can't be done, as a boy he tames a gull (called Toad: too young to fly, it hops) that gets seasick when taken fishing; when "the hens ain't laying," he gets eggs for the family from the plentiful sea birds. In old age, Matthias isn't tempted to sell his valuable property to the rich folks "from away," although he does sell them vegetables. And when his dory goes down in rough seas, his family and neighbors (new and old) can truly say, "A good man. . .A good life." Cooney's serene illustrations for this tribute to self-reliance and an ideal American life are as lovely as the ones for Miss Rurnphius, and as evocative of their setting as those in Ox-Cart Man. Who could fail to love this clean world where luminous water meets luminous sky, where each delicately rendered detail is vibrant with its Own reality and essential to an elegant composition? Outstanding.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1988

ISBN: 0140507566

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1988

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves


A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.


Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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