AUNT MINNIE MCGRANAHAN

Prigger bases her engaging debut on an incident in her own family. The setting is 1920, so Minnie can’t be considered obsessive-compulsive; instead, she’s a woman with a system for keeping things shipshape and just so. Her farmhouse is trim and neat, as is her garden and barn. Her neighbors snipe that it’s a good thing that Minnie, a spinster, has no children, who would surely interfere with her system. Then the telegram arrives: “Come quick. Your brother and his wife have had an accident. Their children are orphans in need of a home.” Aunt Minnie goes and gathers the children, all nine of them, in a thrice. The neighbors look on with amazement (as will readers) when all the potential for pandemonium is breezily absorbed into Aunt Minnie’s system: “The oldest looked after the youngest. The ones in the middle looked after each other. And Aunt Minnie looked after them all.” Tweak this template a little, and it works for grocery shopping, housework, bathing, and going to the johnny house. There are episodes of stubbornness and fretting, dawdling, pouting, and crying; there is also noise, music, laughter, and hugging, all captured with elemental clarity and a visual caress in Lewin’s watercolors. This story is a sweet and simple song of grace, love, and responsibilities met; it will leave children aglow and adults in tears. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 22, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-82270-X

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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LUCKY PENNIES AND HOT CHOCOLATE

Anticipating the visit of a favorite person is half the fun. Planning all the things he likes to do, the narrator of this celebration of childhood, includes telling knock-knock jokes, visiting a construction site, picking up lucky pennies, drinking hot chocolate, cooking, eating and cleaning up together, and just having a good time. What the narrator doesn’t like is putting on scratchy dress-up clothes, eating “funny-looking food,” or watching movies that are too “kissy.” Shields (Martian Rock, 1999, etc.) tells the story from the narrator’s point of view and then delivers a punchy surprise ending for this absolutely charming tale of grandfather and grandson. Nakata’s gentle watercolors for her first picture-book illustrations are alive with color, movement, and humor. They support and extend the text with funny little bits that provoke a grin and a chuckle. The love this grandfather and grandchild have for each other fills every page. A good read-aloud selection for the younger crowd and a nice addition to grandparents’ collections of books to share. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-525-46450-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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SILVER RAIN BROWN

The hazy hot summer seems interminable for a young African-American boy and his pregnant mother. “Can’t cool down!” is the refrain that reverberates throughout the tale, and it’s literally true; lack of rain has put the city on a water conservation alert and the mother worries about all her flowers. Instead of despairing, mother and child surreptitiously water the plants using kitchen pots under the cloak of darkness; the theme of personal resilience and coping permeates the tale. A cooling, life-giving rain heralds the onset of the mother’s labor and the arrival of a new baby sister, Silver Rain Brown. The special bond between mother and son is readily apparent in Flavin’s full-page, full-color illustrations. As for the father, there is only one reference for readers to interpret: “Four a.m. and I can’t sleep, wishing Daddy would come back, wishing, wishing it would rain.” Helldorfer deftly captures the heavy oppressiveness of a summer heat wave, from children attempting to fry eggs on the sidewalk to short tempers and sleeping the hot days away, while Flavin’s illustrations artfully reflect the shimmering cityscapes. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-73093-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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