Not for every child, and, indeed, not for every adult. It’s not exactly as if Dostoyevsky had turned to writing Mother Goose...

CATHERINE CERTITUDE

A beguiling children’s story—well, after a fashion, anyway—by the latest winner of the Nobel Prize in literature (Suspended Sentences, 2014, etc.).

Catherine Certitude—the French rings with the rounded “u,” bespeaking confidence and joie de vivre—is a 40-something grown-up as the story opens, the owner of a dance studio in New York who, in a moment of daydreaming wistfulness, looks back on her odd life. “We’re nobody special,” she says, “just New Yorkers, like so many others.” Very well: but why did the erstwhile resident of the 10th Arrondissement leave the comforting shadow of the Gare du Nord for Greenwich Village? Chalk that up to Papa, master of the carefully weighed shipment and the carefully measured advantage. What was it that Papa did in that big warehouse with the never forthcoming Mister Casterade, “The Pill,” as Papa called him? Papa owes Casterade, we learn, who reminds him, loudly, “Georges, you should remember that your real friends are the ones who save you from the clutches of the law.” The implication is that Papa, who says only that he is in “the package business,” is doing something he ought not to be doing, which might explain the family’s hasty departure. But, as ever with a Modiano story, other, darker possibilities always lurk at the edges of the story. The superficiality of Catherine’s understanding is hinted at by the great illustrator Sempé’s drawings, which have a carefree, untroubled quality even in those moments when they admit shadows. Whatever the case, Modiano, an heir of existentialism who lacks the pessimism of his forerunners, serves up something of a happy ending even as the mystery comes to embrace Catherine’s cloistered world of dance. At least, on leaving the story, we’re treated to the happy vision of Papa cutting another deal that’s shady enough to make Mama want to split....

Not for every child, and, indeed, not for every adult. It’s not exactly as if Dostoyevsky had turned to writing Mother Goose rhymes, but the darkness is there—and so is the brilliance.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 978-0-87923-959-6

Page Count: 76

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2016

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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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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

MAYBE

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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