celebrating children's books loved by adult readers

Copyright 2001 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.

All reviews by Wendy Betts unless otherwise noted. For info and archives, see

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Vol. 9, No. 4, August 2001

Early alert!: HarperCollins has announced the December reprint of the hard-to-find first three books in Jane Langton's Diamond in the Window series! I'll report more when the books become available.

"Giggerty-geggerty, I can't wait!": long-awaited reprints

A Gift from the Lonely Doll written and photographed by Dare Wright. Random House, 1966; Houghton Mifflin, 2001 (0-618-07182-2) $6.95 pb

Sequel to The Lonely Doll and Edith & Mr. Bear.

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones. Greenwillow, 1977; 2001 (0-06-029880-4) $16.95; Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Greenwillow, 1986; 2001 (0-06-029881-2) $16.95; Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones. Greenwillow, 1991; 2001 (0-06-029882-0) $16.95

In what I can only hope is the beginning of a complete reprinting, three of Jones' harder to find books are once again available in hardcover: Dogsbody, a mysterious science fiction story in which the Dog Star Sirius is sentenced to come to earth as an actual dog, Howl's Moving Castle, a light-hearted skewering of fairy-tale conventions that is one of the few of Jones' books to include a touch of romance, and Castle in the Air, sort of a sequel to Howl's Moving Castle.

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

Sleepy Book by Charlotte Zolotow. Illustrated by Stefano Vitale. HarperCollins, 2001 (0-06-027873-0) $15.95

Originally published in 1958, this is a gently lyrical celebration of sleep as it is practiced by many creatures: spiders sleeping "like small ink spots in the middle of their lacy webs," the snowy crane "standing on one long leg like a flower on its stem." I'm not familiar with the original illustration but the new ones are beauties, luminous soft and bright colors on a wood grain background, with simple shapes to complement the soporific invitation of the text.

Reprints: News

Goodnight Moon (Lap Edition); The Runaway Bunny (Lap Edition) by Margaret Wise Brown. Illustrated by Clement Hurd. HarperCollins, 2001 (0-694-01675-6; 0-694-01671-3) $12.95 each, board book

For those who find regular board books hard to hold/look at, these magical pictures books are now available in oversized (11 X 9.25) board book editions.

Also now available: A Margaret Wise Brown Gift Set by Margaret Wise Brown. Illustrated by Clement Hurd. HarperCollins, 2001 (0-06-623846-3) $31.95

Attractively slipcased hardcovers of Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny.

Paddington Goes to Town by Michael Bond. Illustrated by Peggy Fortnum. 1968; Houghton Mifflin, 2001 (0-618-08307-3) $15.00

Polkabats and Alphabet Slacks written and illustrated by Calef Brown. Read by Daniel Pinkwater. Houghton Mifflin, 2001 (0-618-13304-6) $18.00 book and CD

Brown's tribute to such antic characters as Kansas City Octopus, the Lonely Surfer and Funky Snowman get a little extra jazz here with the inclusion of a CD. Children's author Daniel Pinkwater reads the 14 poems with pizazz, against a dixieland background.

New Books: News

The Night is for Hunting by John Marsden. Houghton Mifflin, 2001 (0-618-07026-5) $16.00

Book six of the series about Australian teenagers fighting an enemy invasion that started with Tomorrow, When the War Began.

Now (or Again) in Paperback

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. 2000; Candlewick, 2001 (0-7636-1605-2) $5.99 pb

First paperback edition of the Newbery Honor winner.

The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman. Dell Yearling, 2001 (0-440-41832-1; 0-440-41833-X) $5.99 each, pb

"His Dark Materials" books 1 and 2.

The Hobbit written and illustrated by J.R.R. Tolkein. Houghton Mifflin, 2001 (0-618-15082-X) $10.00 pb

This attractively designed trade paperback includes several illustrations not generally found in the paperback editions and a color cover by Caldecott-honor winner Peter Sis that emphasizes the mythological underpinnings of Tolkein's work. 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.

Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan. HarperCollins, 2000 (0-06-028454-4) $15.95; HarperTrophy, 2001 (0-06-440819-1) $5.95 pb

In an evocative portrait of contemporary life in India, a girl named Koly describes how she survived the aftermath of a disastrous arranged marriage and became an independent and happy woman. Atmospheric details enhance a briskly told and absorbing story. A National Book Award Winner.

Kit's Wilderness by David Almond. 2000; Laurel-Leaf, 2001 (0-440-41605-1) $4.99 pb

Michael L. Printz Award winner, by the author of Skellig.

Making Friends With Frankenstein written and illustrated by Colin McNaughton. Candlewick, 1994 (1-56402-308-7) $19.95; 2001 (0-7636-1552-8) $4.99 pb

The gross, grisly, subversive and wickedly amusing atmosphere of children's playground verses is perfectly captured in this original collection of "monstrous poems and pictures." By turns gruesome, malevolent and cynical--but always gleeful--Making Friends With Frankenstein is delightfully shocking and hysterically funny. The cartoony pictures are an excellent match for the verses: neither are for the weak of stomach. American readers may be baffled by occasional references to English expressions and culture, but that's no big deal--they'll still devour this book and scream for more.

My Working Mom by Peter Glassman. Illustrated by Tedd Arnold. Morrow, 1994 (0-688-12259-0) $15.00; HarperTrophy, 2001 (0-06-441033-1) $5.95 pb

"It isn't easy having a working mom" says a little girl, and you can certainly understand why. Her mom is always flying off to meetings--literally!--or making weird dinners that look like fillet of dragon. This working mom is a bona-fide witch and when she's had a bad day at work--watch out! But she also makes out-of-this world--also literally--birthday cakes and is a big hit on Career Day. All in all, the little girl decides, "...if I had to choose, I'd keep my mom just the way she is."

With goofy, richly comic pictures that do justice to the absurd premise, this is a book that will have readers in stitches. The contrast between the ordinary, matter-of-fact text and the outrageous illustrations is utterly hysterical, as we see the mom diligently at work, dropping flies into her big cauldron, or dashing off to a meeting followed by bats and toads. Numerous funny little details make rereading a pleasure, as does the genuine affection that shines through the story.

Skellig by David Almond. 1999; Laurel-Leaf, 2001 (0-440-22908-1) $4.99 pb

Winner of multiple awards, including the Carnegie Medal and Whitbread Award.

Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones. Greenwillow, 2001 (0-06-447335-X) $6.95

Sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm.

Everything Old is New Again: new editions of books widely available

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Illustrated by W. W. Denslow. Books of Wonder, 2001 (0-688-16677-6) $7.95 pb; The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Illustrated by John R. Neill. Books of Wonder, 2001 (0-06-440963-5) $7.95 pb; Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Illustrated by John R. Neill. Books of Wonder, 2001 (0-06-440962-7) $7.95 pb

The first three Oz books, now available in paperback, including the afterwards by Peter Glassman from the original "Books of Wonder" editions.

"Leftovers": new editions of books originally reviewed in Notes from the Windowsill

Counting Crocodiles by Judy Sierra. Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. Gulliver, 1997 (0-15-200192-1) $15.00; Voyager, 2001 (0-15-216356-5) $7.00 pb

As the old saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade--and living on an island with only a sour lemon tree for food, the monkey heroine of this tale has obviously learned that lesson well. So when she spots a banana tree on a nearby island, separated from her by a sea full of toothy crocodiles, she cleverly figures out how make use of her enemies to add bananas to her diet without adding monkey to theirs. This version of a Pan-Asian folktale makes a fun mix of trickster tale and counting book, told in rhyme to boot. Sierra finds innumerable (well, at least nine) silly rhymes for "crocs," and the fast-paced, whimsical text is matched with lively scenes full of absurd, delightful details--like the box of "croc treats" which looks just like a box of animal crackers, except that the animals drawn on its side are the monkey and her friends. (3-6)

i>A Field Full of Horses by Peter Hansard. Illustrated by A Field Full of Horses by Peter Hansard. Illustrated by Kenneth Lilly. Candlewick, 1994 (1-56402-302-8) $14.95; 2001 (0-7636-1434-3) $5.99 pb

With a text rich in tender understanding of the habits and instincts of horses, this book could make almost any preschooler into a horse lover. The narrative describes the sensory pleasures of watching, listening to, touching and even smelling horses; accompanying text gives more factual information to round out the picture. The carefully crafted watercolor illustrations are somehow less inspiring, but do give a good idea of the natural beauty of the animals. (4-8)

I Love Guinea Pigs by Dick King-Smith. Illustrated by Anita Jeram. Candlewick, 1995 (1-56402-389-3) $14.95; 2001 (0-766-1435-1) $5,99 pb

In an amiable and affectionate first-person narrative, King-Smith convincingly describes the pleasures of caring for those "chunky and chubby and cuddly" little creatures, guinea pigs. If his words weren't enough to make you fall in love with these adorable rodents, Jeram's light, uncrowded illustrations would finish the job--her sweet, somewhat bemused looking guinea pigs are full of personality as they enjoy "those two favorite guinea pig pursuits--eating and conversation." The ending, in which King-Smith remembers two of his favorite guinea pigs, now buried in his yard, is a gentle, age-appropriate reminder that these pets don't live as long as people do. Be prepared to have a child begging for a guinea pig after reading this book--and to be very inclined to give in. (4-8/5-8)

Preston's Goal! written and illustrated by Colin McNaughton. Harcourt Brace, 1998 (0-15-201816-6) $15.00; Voyager, 2001 (0-15-216392-1) $6.00 pb

In a follow-up to Suddenly!, Boo! , and Oops! Preston Pig once again escapes the hungry designs of Mr. Wolf through sheer obliviousness. As Preston runs an errand for his mother, he imagine himself as a great soccer player, never noticing that his shoots are causing chaos and destruction all around him; it's poor Mr. Wolf, as always, who takes the blame. The pictures of Preston's unconcerned athletic gyrations are full of zany humor; I especially liked the endpapers, which show Preston practicing over and over on the front and the wolf being continually slammed by Preston's ball on the back. (4-8)

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