CROOKJAW

This fanciful story has its roots in New England whaling lore, from a time when witches were thought to inhabit the bellies of the more vicious whales. As Cohen (Pigeon, Pigeon, 1992, etc.) tells it, Ichabod, a whaler of world-renown, runs up against the fabled whale, Crookjaw. After being flummoxed by the beast, Ichabod plunges down the whale's throat in response to a siren call and falls quickly under the spell of the witch therein. Ichabod's wife, Smilinda, takes to the sea to find her man, sizes up the situation, returns home to fashion a harpoon of silver (the only element capable of turning a witch to wood), and rows back to Ichabod, where they dispatch the witch. The focus is at first on the hero and then the heroine (whom Ichabod seems to have married when he was ten)—canny, resourceful Smilinda, the only character who really comes to life. With so much going on in so few words, the story never develops dramatic tension, and at one point the New England ambience dissipates due to Southern-sounding dialogue: ``That ain't no way to keep your britches dry,'' ``Git aloft,'' ``Jumpin' tadpoles!,'' and ``Lookie here.'' In her first picture book, Bronson's accomplished oil paintings recall Stefano Vitale's work, although Bronson takes more license with perspectives and is not entirely keyed in to the text: Crookjaw's mouth is fairly symmetrical in appearance, even with its complement of snaggled teeth. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8050-5300-X

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1997

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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HELLO, HARVEST MOON

As atmospheric as its companion, Twilight Comes Twice, this tone poem pairs poetically intense writing with luminescent oils featuring widely spaced houses, open lawns, and clumps of autumnal trees, all lit by a huge full moon. Fletcher tracks that moon’s nocturnal path in language rich in metaphor: “With silent slippers / it climbs the night stairs,” “staining earth and sky with a ghostly glow,” lighting up a child’s bedroom, the wings of a small plane, moonflowers, and, ranging further afield, harbor waves and the shells of turtle hatchlings on a beach. Using creamy brushwork and subtly muted colors, Kiesler depicts each landscape, each night creature from Luna moths to a sleepless child and her cat, as well as the great moon sweeping across star-flecked skies, from varied but never vertiginous angles. Closing with moonset, as dawn illuminates the world with a different kind of light, this makes peaceful reading either in season, or on any moonlit night. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-16451-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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