Storytellers, students of folklore and those who appreciate seeing the work of international children’s-book creators will...

THE BOY WHO DREW CATS

This adaptation of an (relatively) oft-told tale features a conversational text paired with illustrations that echo the story’s Japanese origins.

Ravishankar uses a straightforward, colloquial tone to tell the story of a young boy whose single-minded obsession with drawing cats has unexpected results. While this youngest son is not described as weak or sickly as in some other versions (by Arthur A. Levine and Frederic Clement, 1994, and Margaret Hodges and Aki Sogabe, 2002, among others), he is equally useless to his family. Recognizing his lack of agricultural aptitude, Akiro’s parents take him to the local temple in hopes that he can be trained as a priest. When his behavior doesn’t change, he is sent away again. This time, Akiro chooses his destination—a large temple in a nearby village. Kastl’s spare paintings, outlined in pen and ink, appear on textured, sepia backgrounds meant to resemble rice paper. While some may feel that the characters’ features are simplified to the point of stereotype, the overall impression is of respectful representation rather than cartoonish caricature. The abrupt climax, the impact of which is heightened by the artist’s toothy and terrifying picture of the “gigantic goblin rat,” will be a surprise to those unfamiliar with the tale.

Storytellers, students of folklore and those who appreciate seeing the work of international children’s-book creators will all welcome this intriguing import. (Picture book/folk tale. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-8-181-90159-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Karadi Tales

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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Waiting for Godot imagined for the playground population’s sensibilities.

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THE ROCK FROM THE SKY

If Samuel Beckett had written an early reader, it might look something like this one.

In the first of five chapters, Klassen places his now-familiar turtle and armadillo (wearing bowler hats) on a minimalist gray/green landscape with one flower and—on the facing page—one plant. Personalities are revealed through occasional, slow movement across the gutter together with color-coded dialogue that feels as if it is being invented in the moment, sans script. Turtle is inflexible, not wanting to relocate, even when Armadillo moves farther away after a bad feeling about the space. It is only when Snake (sporting a beret) appears near the mammal that Turtle joins them—just in time: A huge asteroid falls on the vacated spot. Readers have watched it coming, suspense effectively building as they turn the pages. In subsequent episodes, Armadillo attempts to be helpful; miscommunication abounds; and Turtle is stubborn, proud, and jealous of the unspeaking snake, now near the rock: “I see how it is. Just enough room for two.” Turtle playing the martyr: “Maybe I will never come back.” As daylight turns into a striking, rose-tinged sunset and then a starlit evening, a life-zapping extraterrestrial (created previously in Armadillo’s futuristic forest fantasy) stalks Turtle. At the last minute, a second asteroid annihilates the creature. Klassen’s animals react to their seemingly absurd—but never tragic—universe with characteristically subtle, humorous postures and eye maneuvers. The weirdness of it all exerts its own attractive force, drawing readers back to it to wonder and ponder.

Waiting for Godot imagined for the playground population’s sensibilities. (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1562-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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This odd story is not for every reader, but those who enjoy it may find a friend for life

WILD HONEY FROM THE MOON

A determined mother embarks on a surreal adventure.

Kraegel’s format-defying tale is an unexpected story of love, determination, and parenting. Mother Shrew’s son, Hugo, is taken ill on the last day of January with a rare illness that makes him lethargic, with hot feet and a cold head. From “Dr. Ponteluma’s Book of Medical Inquiry and Physiological Know-How,” Mother Shrew learns that the only cure for this odd, unnamed illness is a spoonful of honey from the moon. Ferociously determined to cure Hugo, she sets out to save her son. In each new chapter, Mother Shrew faces a new obstacle or not-too-scary adversary as she braves the moon’s unusual environment—its verdant fields and lush forests make a stark contrast to the wintry landscape Mother Shrew has left behind—and its madcap inhabitants. Divided into seven heavily illustrated chapters, the story is one that will captivate contemplative and creative young readers. Caregivers may find this to be their next weeklong bedtime story and one that fanciful children will want to hear again and again. Kraegel’s ink-and-watercolor illustrations are reminiscent of Sergio Ruzzier’s but a bit grittier and with a darker color scheme. The surreal landscapes are appropriately unsettling, but a bright color palette keeps them from overwhelming readers.

This odd story is not for every reader, but those who enjoy it may find a friend for life . (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8169-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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