MY MAN BLUE

This against-the-odds book from Grimes (Jazmin’s Notebook, 1998, etc.) tells of an African-American boy living in a neighborhood that cuts him no slack, and the man who helps keep his feet grounded and his self-esteem steady against the occasional buffeting of his peers. Damon and his mother have just moved to a new apartment when an old friend of the mother’s introduces himself: Blue, a rather steely character wrapped in shades and enigma. Damon (who has just lost his father) is wary of Blue; he gives the man a chance only when it becomes evident that Blue is not about to move in on Damon’s home turf. Blue (who “had” a son, now lost to the streets or worse) offers advice of haiku-like simplicity, teaching Damon to be his own man: anger is a dangerous waste, fear useless unless subverted, men don’t hit women. Grimes gets across more subtle life lessons as well in both rhymed and unrhymed verse, on the dignity of work, and the sheer physical pleasure of sport when competition isn’t the sole motivating factor. It is a story of a boy who is old for his age, but not callous—and perhaps saved from callousness by Blue. Lagarrigue’s illustrations are brooding gardens of color that hold the forces of disorder and menace at bay, while Damon’s cool earnestness—as well as his courage and independence—brighten each page. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8037-2326-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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ISAAC THE ICE CREAM TRUCK

Newcomer Santoro’s story of the ice cream truck that pined for a more important role in life suffers from a premise that’s well-worn and still fraying—the person or object that longs to be something “more” in life, only to find out that his or its lot in life is enough, after all. Isaac the ice cream truck envies all the bigger, larger, more important vehicles he encounters (the big wheels are depicted as a rude lot, sullen, surly, and snarling, hardly a group to excite much envy) in a day, most of all the fire trucks and their worthy occupants. When Isaac gets that predictable boost to his self-image—he serves up ice cream to over-heated firefighters after a big blaze—it comes as an unmistakable putdown to the picture-book audience: the children who cherished Isaac—“They would gather around him, laughing and happy”—weren’t reason enough for him to be contented. Santoro equips the tale with a tune of Isaac’s very own, and retro scenes in tropical-hued colored pencil that deftly convey the speed of the trucks with skating, skewed angles. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-5296-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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PAULINE

Pauline (32 pp.; $16.00; Oct. 5; 0-374-35758-7) The illustrator of Kate Banks’s many books (The Bird, the Monkey, and the Snake in the Jungle, p. 62, etc,) goes solo for a tale that proves children’s suspicion that bigger isn’t always better. Pauline, a fuzzy-eared weasel, is an unlikely heroine, but her courage and dramatic talents combine to save her best friend Rabusius the elephant, trapped by hunters. The thick bold lines and lush colors of the illustrations infuse the story with an excitement and immediacy that will appeal to preschoolers. The spreads are presented from a weasel’s-eye-view are particularly captivating and reinforce Pauline’s small stature and mighty impact. (Picture book. 3-6.)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 1999

ISBN: 0-374-35758-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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