celebrating children's books loved by adult readers

Copyright 2002 Wendy E. Betts. Reproduction for personal and non-commercial use is permitted only if this copyright notice is retained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission. Mail with comments or questions.

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Vol. 10, No. 5; November 21, 2002

Take Note: books of special interest to children's book enthusiasts

Dorp Dead by Julia Cunningham. 1965; Knopf, 2002 (0-375-82255-0) $14.95

Unique when it first appeared, this poetic, heavily symbolic and genre-defying story no longer has the power to shock it once had, but is still chilling and effective. Eleven-year-old Gilly, all alone since the death of his grandmother, gladly leaves the poverty, noise and confusion of an orphanage for a life of strict routine with the village ladder maker. But he soon discovers he has traded a large part of himself for comfort and security--and that taking any steps out of rigid pattern outlined for him will have a terrifying price. Reprinted for the first time in almost ten years, this edition includes an afterward by Betsy Hearne, Professor of Children's Literature at the University of Illinois, which discusses the symbolic meanings of the story and its importance in the history of children's literature.

Reprints: News

The American Revolution by Bruce Bliven, Jr. Random House, 1958; 2002 (0-394-84696-6) $5.99 pb

Reprint of the 1958 edition.

Detectives in Togas; Mystery of the Roman Ransom; Castaways in Lilliput; Trouble at Timpetill by Henry Winterfeld. Harcourt, 2002 (0-15-216292-5; 0-15-216313-1; 0-15-216298-4; 0-15-216306-9) $17.00; (0-15-216280-1; 0-15-216313-1; 0-15-216286-0; 0-15-216274-7) $5.95 pb

Lively and imaginative stories, originally published in the fifties and sixties. Reprinted in hardcover and paperback.

Dido and Pa by Joan Aiken. 1986; Houghton Mifflin, 2002 (0-618-19623-4) $5.95 pb

The fifth (or sixth, depending on how you count it) in Aiken's alternate history series, with cover art by Edward Gorey.

Emily by Michael Bedard. Illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Doubleday, 1992; Dell Dragonfly, 2002 (0-440-41740-6) $6.99 pb

Hector Protector and As I Went Over the Water illustrated by Maurice Sendak. 1965; 2001 (0-06-028642-3) $14.95

Two short but thoroughly illustrated nursery rhymes.

Henry and Beezus by Beverly Cleary. Illustrated by Louis Darling. 1952; HarperTrophy, 2002 (0-380-70914-7) $5.99 pb

The Hobbit written and illustrated by J.R.R. Tolkein. Houghton Mifflin, 2002 (0-618-26030-7) $10.00 trade pb

This trade paperback includes several illustrations not generally found in the paperback editions and a colored cover illustration by Tolkein. The text is based on the Collins Modern Classics edition published in 1998, which includes a number of text corrections; unfortunately, the specific changes aren't noted in this volume. The first chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring is included at the end.

Paddington at Large; Paddington Helps Out; Paddington on Top by Michael Bond. Illustrated by Peggy Fortnum. Paddington Takes to TV by Michael Bond. Illustrated by Ivor Wood. Houghton Mifflin, 2002 (0-618-19678-1; 0-618-19679-X; 0-618-25072-7; 0-618-25071-9) $4.95 ea. pb

Paperbacks of the recent hardcover editions, with cover art by Diane DeGroat.

The Pioneers Go West by George R. Stewart. Random House, 1954; 2002 (0-394-89180-5) $5.99 pb

Revised edition of To California By Covered Wagon., originally published in 1954.

Lucky Chuck by Beverly Cleary. Illustrated by J. Winslow Higginbottom. 1984; HarperCollins, 2002 (0-688-02736-9) $15.99; HarperTrophy, 2002 (0-06-008239-9) $5.99 pb

This information-filled story about a boy riding a motorcycle for the first time includes detailed drawings of the motorcycle's different parts and descriptions of every starting move. A certain amount of preachiness about reckless driving ("People in passing cars slow down to stare at Chuck, who is embarrassed and ashamed.") is leavened somewhat by flashes of dry humor. The original illustrations have been colorized for this edition.

New Books: Reviews

Animal Fair illustrated by Anthony Browne. Candlewick, 2002 (0-7636-1831-4) $14.99

The cover describes this book as "a spectacular pop-up" but "creepy" and "baffling" are words that come more readily to my mind. Based on a nonsense rhyme, the ridiculous words about an animal fair actually seem to make more sense than the surreal pictures which attempt to illustrate them. There are some wonderful images though, including a haunted house decorated with skulls whose blank eyes sneakily change color, and a fabulous merry-go-round which changes, with the pull of a tab, from an ordinary carousel with people riding on wooden horses, to a macabre vision of animals riding on (wooden?) people. Probably a treat for the right reader.

New Books: News

Lady Knight ("Protector of the Small" #4) by Tamora Pierce. Random House, 2002 (0-375-81465-5) $16.95

Final book in the series.

Now (or Again) in Paperback

Crooked by Laura and Tom McNeal. Knopf, 1999; Laurel-Leaf, 2002 (0-440-22946-4) $5.50 pb

Ninth graders Clara and Amos find their growing interest in each other painfully complicated by misunderstandings, peer pressure, family tragedies and the increasingly sinister attentions of school bullies Charles and Eddie Tripp. This unusually leisurely suspense story takes its time, building strong characterizations and powerfully charged situations along with a strong sense of menace.

Spyhole Secrets by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Delacorte, 2001; Dell Yearling, 2002 (0-440-41708-2) $4.99 pb

Growing a Reader: Children's Books for Children

Alphabet Under Construction written and illustrated by Denise Fleming. Henry Holt, 2002 (0-805-06848-1) $16.95

In this follow up to Lunch, Mouse is busy at work, constructing, beautifying and approving the entire alphabet. Handily he buttons the B together, folds the F into its proper shape and award a blue ribbon after judging the J. Although the idea isn't especially novel, this alphabet is both fun and gorgeous: vibrant, dynamic colors and textures are a joy to look at, and the movements of the dauntless and vigorous Mouse keeps the tone animated and intimate. A small poster showing each page is included with the book.

Cat is Sleepy written and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996 (0-374-31223-0) $4.95 board book

Poor Cat... he's so sleepy he can barely keep his eyes open. But every place he tries to sleep has some serious issues: the sink is cold and slippery, the brick fence is covered with other cats, and the cooking pot is just not comfortable. (Perhaps even a little frightening?) Thank goodness he finally finds a cozy place: a little girl's lap. Expressive, sharply-outlined illustrations of weary, droopy-eyed Cat, who can barely pad along by the last scene, make this simply worded story sparkle with fun; I especially love the picture of Cat looking with weary resignation at the fence that's covered, every inch, with sleeping cats. (10 months-3)

Hands Are Not for Hitting by Martine Agassi. Illustrated by Marieka Heinlen, Free Spirit, 2002 (1-57542-112-7) $7.95 board book

This simplified version of the picture book of the same name is less didactic than the title suggests, calmly demonstrating some of the many constructive things that can be done with hands, like drawing, helping, hugging and waving good-bye. The accompanying illustrations of children are somewhat bland, but make an appealing use of colors and textures.

Maisy's First Clock written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins. Candlewick, 2001 (0-7636-1788-1) $12.99 board book

This large board book has an extra feature: as Maisy the mouse goes about her day--dressing in the morning, shopping for food, playing at the park--readers can move a built in clock to see how the time is passing. It's an surprisingly good toy clock, too: colored gears click with each movement, and the second hand moves in proper synch with the hour hand. The large size is perfect for Maisy, who is as boldly outlined and colorfully fun as ever, though this book focuses more on everyday objects than the more action-oriented board books for babies. (3-6)

Mama Cat Has Three Kittens written and illustrated by Denise Fleming. Henry Holt, 1998 (0-8050-5745-5) $15.95; 2002 (0-8050-7162-8) $6.95

An unusual illustration technique involving rag fiber and stencils brings a cat family gorgeously to life in this striking picture book. The short, repetitive text is about Mama Cat and her kittens: as Mama Cat does various catlike things--sharpening her claws, chasing leaves--two of her children follow suit, but the third, Boris, just naps. Only when Mama Cat and the others want to nap does Boris get excited and active. Brilliant splashes of color combine to create four distinctive cats against a near-fantastic background of flowers and bugs; it's far removed from realism, but the just-right expressions and movements of the cats leave nothing to be desired. (2-4)

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