GERGIE LEE

Most main characters speak but in this delightfully charming story about J.D.’s summer on his Grandmother’s farm, the title player moos—Georgie Lee is a cow, and a right smart one at that. The opening chapter establishes the ambience when J.D. and Grandmother can’t understand why, on such a hot day, Georgie Lee is standing absolutely still in the cool creek. As they watch, little fish school under the cow’s spotted belly and, one by one, jump up and catch the flies crawling on her. When all the flies are gone, the full fish swim back to their hiding place, Georgie Lee has a long, cool drink and smiles as she heads back to her grass hill. The cleverly subtle writing meshes details and dialogue with homespun flair as in the incident when Grandmother climbs a tree to join J.D. and can’t get down. J.D. asks, “Did you ever see a cow up a tree?” Grandmother answers, “Not yet.” And sure enough, at the end of the story, there’s Georgie Lee, amidst tree branches. The delicate black-and-white drawings softly accentuate the episodes of symbiotic relationships between animals and people. “Why do tumblebugs make balls out of cow manure?” J.D. asked. In her unflappable wisdom, Grandmother answers, “Ever try rolling something that’s not round?” Country and city kids alike will grin over the trio’s encounters with a haunted house, a neighborhood goat, a giant catfish, and a huge storm in this deceptively simple first chapter book. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-688-17940-1

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2002

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I WANNA IGUANA

In epistolary dialogue with his mom, a lad yearning for an iguana tries various approaches, from logic and sweet talk to emotional blackmail. His mother puts up a valiant defense—“Dear Mom: Did you know that iguanas are really quiet and they’re cute too. I think they are much cuter than hamsters. Love, your adorable son, Alex.” “Dear Alex: Tarantulas are quiet too”—before ultimately capitulating. Catrow’s scribbly, lurid, purple-and-green illustrations bring the diverse visions of parent and child to hilarious life, as a lizard of decidedly indeterminate ancestry grows in stages to the size of a horse, all the while exhibiting a doglike affection toward its balloon-headed prospective keeper—who is last seen posed by a new terrarium, pumping a fist in victory. A familiar domestic interchange, played out with broad comedy—and mutual respect, too. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-399-23717-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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KEVIN AND HIS DAD

There is something profoundly elemental going on in Smalls’s book: the capturing of a moment of unmediated joy. It’s not melodramatic, but just a Saturday in which an African-American father and son immerse themselves in each other’s company when the woman of the house is away. Putting first things first, they tidy up the house, with an unheralded sense of purpose motivating their actions: “Then we clean, clean, clean the windows,/wipe, wipe, wash them right./My dad shines in the windows’ light.” When their work is done, they head for the park for some batting practice, then to the movies where the boy gets to choose between films. After a snack, they work their way homeward, racing each other, doing a dance step or two, then “Dad takes my hand and slows down./I understand, and we slow down./It’s a long, long walk./We have a quiet talk and smile.” Smalls treats the material without pretense, leaving it guileless and thus accessible to readers. Hays’s artwork is wistful and idyllic, just as this day is for one small boy. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-79899-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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