THE FOOL AND THE PHOENIX

A TALE OF OLD JAPAN

In this original tale of a mute birdcatcher who nets a phoenix and saves his village from a bandit, Lattimore (Arabian Nights, 1995, etc.) shows little of the zeal for authenticity and depth of research that characterize her other works. In feudal Japan, the shogun has threatened to burn down a village he believes is harboring his stolen treasure. Hideo, the birdcatcher, sees a scar on a passing bandit's forehead and an identical one on Nobu, head of the village council, but fails to connect the two until after he frees and falls in love with a phoenix, and then performs several random good deeds. After trying to kill Hideo—who is speechless and unable to defend himself—for the thievery, Nobu hears the phoenix's accusation and instantly confesses all. Hideo and the phoenix disappear into a tree and are last seen, many years later, flying off wing in wing (though the illustration depicts an odd, birdlike creature with two heads on a single body). The intricately brushed scenes are backed by foamy trails of dingy-looking mist to go with the heavily contrived plot. A somewhat superficial background note is appended, which wrongly implies that the legend of the phoenix is a Japanese story, when it is actually found in many cultures. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1997

ISBN: 0-06-026209-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1997

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OWNEY, THE MAIL-POUCH POOCH

Going back to contemporary sources, Kerby retraces the travels of a stray terrier who became the semi-official mascot of the U.S. Postal Service in the 1890s and who, aboard ship and train, escorted mailbags to hundreds of destinations around the world. She sticks largely to facts—finding that accounts of how he got his name differ, she doesn’t try to explain its origin, for instance—but does tuck in occasional invented details to smooth the narrative. Although the text notes that his preserved body is still on display at the U.S. Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., it neglects to mention that he met his end by violence. Ever alert and sporting a harness increasingly covered in tags attached at his many stopovers, the small dog makes an engaging centerpiece in Barasch’s watercolor sketches. His tale has been told several times for younger audiences, most recently in Irene Kelly’s A Small Dog’s Big Life (2005); still, dog lovers will lap up this latest iteration. (photos, research note, sources) (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 7, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-374-35685-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008

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A skimpy alternative to Adrian Lister and Martin Ursell’s Ice Age Tracker’s Guide (2010).

TOBY AND THE ICE GIANTS

A small bison meets some ice age megafauna in this prehistoric ramble.

Assuring his mom that “I’m big now. I’m not scared!” little Toby scampers off. He collides with a grumpy woolly rhinoceros, introduces himself to a Megatherium, wonders at a woolly mammoth’s tusks, and sidles anxiously past a handful of other Pleistocene creatures—including a group of fur-clad humans—before gamboling back to safety. Along with exchanged greetings, each encounter comes with a side box of descriptive facts and comments, plus a small image of the animal posed next to a human (in modern dress) for comparison. Young viewers will marvel at the succession of massive ruminants and predators, which Lillington renders in watercolors with reasonable accuracy, if anthropomorphic facial expressions. He offers measurements in metric units only (except for humans, whose weight is opaquely designated “average”). Rather anticlimactically, he caps his gallery with a perfunctory, unillustrated list of “some other amazing ice age animals that Toby didn’t get to meet!”

A skimpy alternative to Adrian Lister and Martin Ursell’s Ice Age Tracker’s Guide (2010). (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-909263-58-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flying Eye Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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