RULER OF THE COURTYARD

The Pakistani setting provides an additional and timely dimension to this perfectly paced story. Saba is a little girl who finds power in confronting something even more frightening than the terrifying chickens of the courtyard, who threaten her with their “bony beaks, razor claws,” and “GLITTERY eyes.” There, in the “dim and calm and cool” respite of the bathhouse, she spies a “curled-up something” in the corner—could it be a deadly snake? If she screams, her Nani will come running and perhaps be bitten. She must take care of it herself, but how? A stick to kill it? A bucket to trap it? All Saba wants to do is “run and look for cover.” But she must act. At times the phrasing is staccato, “All is silent. All is still. / Not a movement, not a rustle.” Christie’s (Love to Langston, p. 48, etc.) bold and colorful illustrations show Saba’s feelings through her facial expressions and body language, and provide the balance between ambiguity and realism that the text requires. A spiral snake shape adorns the back cover, snake-like forms decorate the text, and even the road to Saba’s house is snake-like. Suspense, a positive message, and illustrations that show up across the room, make this a winner for reading aloud. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-670-03583-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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HELLO, HARVEST MOON

As atmospheric as its companion, Twilight Comes Twice, this tone poem pairs poetically intense writing with luminescent oils featuring widely spaced houses, open lawns, and clumps of autumnal trees, all lit by a huge full moon. Fletcher tracks that moon’s nocturnal path in language rich in metaphor: “With silent slippers / it climbs the night stairs,” “staining earth and sky with a ghostly glow,” lighting up a child’s bedroom, the wings of a small plane, moonflowers, and, ranging further afield, harbor waves and the shells of turtle hatchlings on a beach. Using creamy brushwork and subtly muted colors, Kiesler depicts each landscape, each night creature from Luna moths to a sleepless child and her cat, as well as the great moon sweeping across star-flecked skies, from varied but never vertiginous angles. Closing with moonset, as dawn illuminates the world with a different kind of light, this makes peaceful reading either in season, or on any moonlit night. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-16451-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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BUBBA, THE COWBOY PRINCE

A FRACTURED TEXAS TALE

A Cinderella parody features the off-the-wall, whang-dang Texas hyperbole of Ketteman (The Year of No More Corn, 1993, etc.) and the insouciance of Warhola, who proves himself only too capable of creating a fairy godcow; that she's so appealingly whimsical makes it easy to accept the classic tale's inversions. The protagonist is Bubba, appropriately downtrodden and overworked by his wicked stepdaddy and loathsome brothers Dwayne and Milton, who spend their days bossing him around. The other half of the happy couple is Miz Lurleen, who owns ``the biggest spread west of the Brazos.'' She craves male companionship to help her work the place, ``and it wouldn't hurt if he was cute as a cow's ear, either.'' There are no surprises in this version except in the hilarious way the premise plays itself out and in Warhola's delightful visual surprises. When Lurleen tracks the bootless Bubba down, ``Dwayne and Milton and their wicked daddy threw chicken fits.'' Bubba and babe, hair as big as a Texas sun, ride off to a life of happy ranching, and readers will be proud to have been along for the courtship. (Picture book/folklore. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-590-25506-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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