THE ORPHAN SINGER

Vivaldi’s Venice is the scene for this somewhat melodramatic story of sacrifice for the greater good. Young Antonio Dolci has great talent as a singer, but the Dolcis have so little money they cannot afford lessons. When his sister Nina is born, Antonio’s parents are determined to give her a better life. With breaking hearts they drop her into the infant drawer at the orphanage, where foundling girls with talent receive the best musical training in Europe. Now known as Caterina, Nina is not allowed outside its walls. Her voice is one of the best in the orphanage and she joins the chorus at a young age. On visiting day the Dolci family is always there pretending to be strangers. When the family does not appear one day, Caterina is worried. At last, Papa Dolci arrives to tell her that Antonio is seriously ill and may die. Desperate to see him, and knowing he will become well if he hears her sing, she slips out of the orphanage late at night, manages to tell a sleepy gondolier the address she remembered, and appears at the Dolci home to sing to Antonio. He gets well and the family is there to hear her debut with the choir. Caterina becomes a famous opera star and never forgets the Dolcis, for she has “long ago guessed the truth.” Full-color watercolor-and-tempura paintings are framed in pastel colors with a marbleized effect reminiscent of the elegant papers for which Italy is famous. The two double-paged spreads, however, are not framed, creating a jarring effect to the design. Venetian scenes and costumes are magical both by day and night, but the figures are somewhat indistinct, at times giving a muddled look to the pictures. A sweet tale that will appeal to readers who enjoy fairy tales. (author’s note) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-19274-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2001

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.

A PLACE FOR PLUTO

If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Young readers with a fondness for amphibians will jump all over this one. (Fiction. 6-8)

STINK AND THE FREAKY FROG FREAKOUT

From the Stink series , Vol. 8

Stink Moody, younger brother of Judy, hops into the spotlight with a common problem—and  one that’s a bit more unusual.

Stink would like to advance in his swimming lessons, but he’s afraid to put his face underwater and seems doomed to remain a Polliwog forever. Fortunately, he’s distracted from that issue by the sudden appearance around town—in some surprising places—of a whole lot of real frogs, a few of which are deformed. These frogs give McDonald the opportunity to offer a little information, through the voice of a nature-center guide, on how adverse environmental conditions can influence frog development. Stink memorizes a variety of frog sounds, enabling him to participate in a frog count at a local pond. Somehow, he becomes convinced that he’s turning into a frog himself, but that might just make it possible for him to swim underwater. Brief, cheery, oversized text and lot of cartoonish black-and-white illustrations (only some of which were available for review) make this a good choice for newly independent readers. A minor issue is that the text informs readers that it is early spring; even in Virginia, that’s a little early for Stink to be taking swimming lessons in an outdoor pool, as indicated in the illustrations.

Young readers with a fondness for amphibians will jump all over this one. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6140-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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