PIONEER SUMMER

Hopkinson (Bluebird Summer, 2001, etc.) tells the engaging saga of a pioneer family’s move to Kansas in her first foray into Ready-for-Chapters reading. Charlie and Ida Jane are moving from Massachusetts, where their parents and other abolitionists are trying to tip the balance against slavery in the region. Mr. Keller’s reassuring voice tells his children (and the child reader) about the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Act without burdening them with excessive historical details. Charlie, a quiet, thoughtful boy, who loves to collect items from the natural world, is not a stereotype, nor is he a 21st-century transplant. Ida Jane is not a quiet, long-suffering daughter who dutifully cooks and quilts in the background. The children wrestle with their parents’ abolitionist philosophies as they wrangle with their little sister Sadie, who is quite a handful. Hopkinson’s gift is her ability to weave little details into a story: Charlie’s old dog Danny and grandfather are both too old for the trip; a minor character explains riverboat life; Mr. Keller has a brush with cholera; the job of building a house and putting in crops is much more challenging than the children would ever have thought; and the ever-present big sky draws them together and keeps them connected. While most young children have been introduced to the facts of the Civil War, slave life, and the Underground Railroad, many are unaware of the enormous changes that were taking place in the Midwest at the time. This superb story will whet their appetites for future news of the Keller family as they find their place in “Bleeding Kansas.” (author’s note) (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-84349-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2002

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IGGY PECK, ARCHITECT

A repressive teacher almost ruins second grade for a prodigy in this amusing, if overwritten, tale. Having shown a fascination with great buildings since constructing a model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa from used diapers at age two, Iggy sinks into boredom after Miss Greer announces, throwing an armload of histories and craft projects into the trash, that architecture will be a taboo subject in her class. Happily, she changes her views when the collapse of a footbridge leaves the picnicking class stranded on an island, whereupon Iggy enlists his mates to build a suspension bridge from string, rulers and fruit roll-ups. Familiar buildings and other structures, made with unusual materials or, on the closing pages, drawn on graph paper, decorate Roberts’s faintly retro cartoon illustrations. They add an audience-broadening element of sophistication—as would Beaty’s decision to cast the text into verse, if it did not result in such lines as “After twelve long days / that passed in a haze / of reading, writing and arithmetic, / Miss Greer took the class / to Blue River Pass / for a hike and an old-fashioned picnic.” Another John Lithgow she is not, nor is Iggy another Remarkable Farkle McBride (2000), but it’s always salutary to see young talent vindicated. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8109-1106-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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HELLO, HARVEST MOON

As atmospheric as its companion, Twilight Comes Twice, this tone poem pairs poetically intense writing with luminescent oils featuring widely spaced houses, open lawns, and clumps of autumnal trees, all lit by a huge full moon. Fletcher tracks that moon’s nocturnal path in language rich in metaphor: “With silent slippers / it climbs the night stairs,” “staining earth and sky with a ghostly glow,” lighting up a child’s bedroom, the wings of a small plane, moonflowers, and, ranging further afield, harbor waves and the shells of turtle hatchlings on a beach. Using creamy brushwork and subtly muted colors, Kiesler depicts each landscape, each night creature from Luna moths to a sleepless child and her cat, as well as the great moon sweeping across star-flecked skies, from varied but never vertiginous angles. Closing with moonset, as dawn illuminates the world with a different kind of light, this makes peaceful reading either in season, or on any moonlit night. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-16451-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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