THE BEARSKINNER

A TALE OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM

The devil makes a bad bargain in this rich retelling from the collections of the Grimms. A soldier on his way home from war makes a deal: For seven years he will wear a rotting bearskin and go without bathing or cutting his hair; in return, his pockets will always be full of gold. If he can make it through the seven years without telling anyone of the bargain, praying to God or killing himself, he can keep his soul. It’s a predictably hard seven years, but he finds unexpected love and grace through good works and prevails in a deeply satisfying ending. Although this tale is not completely unknown, it’s certainly less familiar than others of the Grimms—and what a contribution this is. Schlitz’s masterful storytelling voice makes the lengthy text a joy to read aloud, while Grafe’s dark, mixed-media illustrations emphasize the difficulty of the soldier’s task, the nattily dressed devil contrasting with the skin-clad soldier. It’s an unabashedly old-fashioned retelling, making few concessions to modern sensibilities; as such, it carries a power rarely found in fairy-tale retellings. (Picture book/fairy tale. 7-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7636-2730-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2007

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TOMAS AND THE LIBRARY LADY

A charming, true story about the encounter between the boy who would become chancellor at the University of California at Riverside and a librarian in Iowa. Tom†s Rivera, child of migrant laborers, picks crops in Iowa in the summer and Texas in the winter, traveling from place to place in a worn old car. When he is not helping in the fields, Tom†s likes to hear Papa Grande's stories, which he knows by heart. Papa Grande sends him to the library downtown for new stories, but Tom†s finds the building intimidating. The librarian welcomes him, inviting him in for a cool drink of water and a book. Tom†s reads until the library closes, and leaves with books checked out on the librarian's own card. For the rest of the summer, he shares books and stories with his family, and teaches the librarian some Spanish. At the end of the season, there are big hugs and a gift exchange: sweet bread from Tom†s's mother and a shiny new book from the librarianto keep. Col¢n's dreamy illustrations capture the brief friendship and its life-altering effects in soft earth tones, using round sculptured shapes that often depict the boy right in the middle of whatever story realm he's entered. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-80401-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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RIVER STORY

Trickling, bubbling, swirling, rushing, a river flows down from its mountain beginnings, past peaceful country and bustling city on its way to the sea. Hooper (The Drop in My Drink, 1998, etc.) artfully evokes the water’s changing character as it transforms from “milky-cold / rattling-bold” to a wide, slow “sliding past mudflats / looping through marshes” to the end of its journey. Willey, best known for illustrating Geraldine McCaughrean’s spectacular folk-tale collections, contributes finely detailed scenes crafted in shimmering, intricate blues and greens, capturing mountain’s chill, the bucolic serenity of passing pastures, and a sense of mystery in the water’s shadowy depths. Though Hooper refers to “the cans and cartons / and bits of old wood” being swept along, there’s no direct conservation agenda here (for that, see Debby Atwell’s River, 1999), just appreciation for the river’s beauty and being. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7636-0792-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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