A BIG, SPOOKY HOUSE

This ghost story has more than a touch of the shaggy dog about it and would certainly be more successful as a performance piece than as a storybook. In Washington's version of the traditional scary tale, the fall guy is “a big man, a strong man” who not only has never backed away from a fight, he spoils for them (The Story of Kwanzaa, 1997, etc.). When he is challenged by one of the ladies in town to join the volunteer army, he accepts and sets off to join up. He turns down any assistance on the way—he wants no help—but when rain starts falling in the middle of the night, he takes cover in a spooky house on a hill. Although no one is in evidence, the door creaks open for him, a fire is blazing in the hearth, and a sumptuous meal is set out. Lesser mortals would flee, but not our big, strong man. A cat appears, leaps in the fire, licks upon a hot coal, and asks, “Are you going to be here when John gets here?” “And past that,” says the man. A bigger cat appears, leaps in the fire, chews on a burning log, asks the same question, gets the same answer. When yet a third cat, big as a pony, arrives, eats the other two cats, licks the fireplace clean, and pops the question, our big man, our strong man, takes a powder. Why did he flee? Who is John? Who’s that even bigger cat reflected in the mirror? Dunno. Even as material for a storyteller, it is hard to see how this ending works, though, thankfully, the same can’t be said for Rogers’s watercolors, which are terrific scene-setters, if abandoned at the climax. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7868-0349-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Disney-Jump at the Sun

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2000

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A culturally intricate slice of a lupine courier’s life.

¡VAMOS! LET'S GO TO THE MARKET

From the ¡Vamos! series

Little Lobo and his dog, Bernabé, journey through a Mexican mercado delivering diverse goods to a variety of booths.

With the aid of red words splattered throughout the spreads as labels, Raúl the Third gives an introduction to Spanish vocabulary as Little Lobo, an anthropomorphic wolf, leaves his house, fills his cart with objects from his warehouse, and delivers them to the market’s vendors. The journey also serves as a crash course in Mexican culture, as the images are packed with intertextual details such as food, traditional games, and characters, including Cantinflas, Frida Khalo, and Juan Gabriel. Readers acquainted with Raúl the Third’s characters from his Lowriders series with author Cathy Camper will appreciate cameos from familiar characters. As he makes his rounds, Little Lobo also collects different artifacts that people offer in exchange for his deliveries of shoe polish, clothespins, wood, tissue paper, paintbrushes, and a pair of golden laces. Although Raúl the Third departs from the ball-pen illustrations that he is known for, his depiction of creatures and critters peppering the borderland where his stories are set remains in his trademark style. The softer hues in the illustrations (chosen by colorist Bay) keep the busy compositions friendly, and the halftone patterns filling the illustrations create foregrounds and backgrounds reminiscent of Roy Lichtenstein’s pointillism.

A culturally intricate slice of a lupine courier’s life. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-55726-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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