BOXES FOR KATJE

Katje and her family struggle to make due with substitutions for essentials like soap and sugar in Holland, post-WWII. One day, Postman Kleinhoonte unexpectedly delivers a small box from America addressed to Katje; it contains a bar of soap, a pair of wool socks, and some chocolate. A letter from Rosie is also in the box expressing her wish that “these gifts brighten your day.” A pen-pal exchange begins with Katje’s thank-you letter and gradually develops into an American small-town effort to donate basics to their European counterpart over the course of a year. Katje’s neighbors reciprocate with a box of tulip bulbs after conditions improve in the war-torn country. Fleming reveals Katje’s character of leadership, resolve, and gratitude through her written communiqués and Rosie’s initiative and inspiration through her active promotion of the charitable effort. Dressen-McQueen captures the flavor and essence of Fleming’s 1945 family experience through her detailed mixed-media paintings delineating fabric patterns, hairdos, emotions, and the general lifestyle of both communities. As heartwarming and uplifting as a bouquet of tulips. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2003

ISBN: 0-374-30922-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Melanie Kroupa/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2003

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This reimagined telling has an engaging charm that rings true.

KAFKA AND THE DOLL

An imagining of an unlikely real-life episode in the life of absurdist Franz Kafka.

Theule follows the outline of the account: When Kafka meets an unhappy girl in a Berlin park in 1923 and learns her doll is lost, Kafka writes a series of letters from Soupsy, the doll, to Irma, the girl. The real letters and the girl’s identity have been lost to history; the invented letters describe a dazzling variety of adventures for Soupsy. Unfortunately, as the letters increase in excitement, Kafka’s health declines (he would die of tuberculosis in June 1924), and he must find a way to end Soupsy’s adventures in a positive way. In an author’s note, readers learn that Kafka chose to write that Soupsy was getting married. Theule instead opts to send the doll on an Antarctic expedition. Irma gets the message that she can do anything, and the final image shows her riding a camel, a copy of Metamorphosis peeking from a satchel. While kids may not care about Kafka, the short relationship between the writer and the little girl will keep their interest. Realizing that an adult can care so much about a child met in the park is empowering. The stylized illustrations, especially those set in the chilly Berlin fall, resemble woodcuts with a German expressionist look. The doll’s adventures look a little sweeter, with more red and blue added to the brown palette of the German scenes. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 23% of actual size.)

This reimagined telling has an engaging charm that rings true. (biographical note, bibliography) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11632-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Just a bit of well-armed fun, more suitable formatwise for a gift than classroom or library shelves.

MAISY'S CASTLE

A relatively sturdy pullout castle with a die-cut drawbridge and a dragon in the cellar serves as playscape for punch-out figures of medieval Maisy and her friends.

The dramatic main event follows a perfunctory scenario in which Maisy welcomes “Sir Charley” the crocodile and others to a bit of archery practice, then dons armor to win a friendly joust “by one point.” Even toddlers-at-arms (with minimal assistance from a yeoparent) can follow the easy instructions to set up the castle and brace it. The card-stock punch-outs include four characters in period dress, two rideable destriers and, oddly, a cannon. These can be stored in an accompanying pocket when not in use—or even dispensed with entirely, as the castle is not only festooned with busy guards and other residents, but there is lots of (literal) monkey business going on. Along with sending Maisy further from her customary domestic settings than usual, this outing features a possibly discomfiting quantity of weaponry—none seen actually in use, but still adding an unusually martial note to a series that generally promotes more peaceful pursuits.

Just a bit of well-armed fun, more suitable formatwise for a gift than classroom or library shelves. (Novelty. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7438-0

Page Count: 10

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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