The title story, plus two that are also about the transmutation of toys, plus a fourth that ties the other three together—presented, however, in a picture-book format (with full-color pictures) that makes the book look too young for the out-of-the-way, and somewhat subtle, stories. In the title story, a tin frog enamored of the lady in the picture on the inside of a La Corona cigar-box lid, finds out (via tips from a magnifying glass, a tape measure, and a seashell) how to get between the dots in the picture and join her. In the second, somewhat similar tale, a tin horseman is united with a "yellow-haired princess" in a "weather castle. . . printed on a card." (The eerie difference has to do with a glass-topped box with little silver halls to be shaken into a monkey's eyes—a terrifying prospect to the tin horseman, who therefore smashes the glass.) The third and most remote involves a night watchman, made of wood, whose "real job was burning incense," and a tin crocodile on wheels. The night watchman is "burning to say something," the crocodile fancies himself literary; and one midnight when the tin watchman does say something properly cryptic ("NOW IS THE ONLY TIME THERE IS!"), the crocodile composes a poem from it—which the spinster mouse, who edits "a literary quarterly," will publish. The last is reverberant—and would make a fine capstone for the group were each more accessible. Quite simply, the clock has noticed that the magic always occurs in "that crucial moment. . . just after his hands touched midnight and just before he sounded his twelve strokes." So, wanting to do something himself in that "in-between moment," he slips out of his case—and La Corona ceases to be "only a picture" and joins the frog in the room, the tin horseman and his princess also materialize together, the incense-burning night watchman finds he can speak the others' language; and as they follow the "clock's escapement" out the window, "whoever lived in the red-and-yellow glass-topped box that had been the monkey game of skill," joins them. "'They'll want me too,' he said. 'Everyone can't be nice.'" More appropriately presented, the quartet might bc worthwhile for children who take to this very particular kind of English magic As it is, though, the book is unlikely to find its few rightful readers.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 1981

ISBN: 0091767202

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Jonathan Cape/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1981

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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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


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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