TILTAWHIRL JOHN

When you hoe beets you're alone, so alone you might as well be on another planet," and when you work a carnival, it's like being separate, detached, "from outer space"—and it's the runaway narrator's immersion in these other worlds that gives Paulsen's high-key, deep-think story a real punch. At sixteen, he's not ready to take up his uncle's offer of 80 flat North Dakota acres, not without a try for fame and fortune. The breakaway (said to resemble Paulsen's own) lands him first among brutalized wetbacks on a sugar-beet farm where nearly a month of dry beans and bread and short-handled hoeing "from can to can't" nets him—"I'll call it even," says the smirking padrone. On the road again after attacking the boss, he's picked up by carnies Tiltawhirl John (for the ride he operates), hard/ soft wife Wanda, a stripper, and brother Billy, T-John's twin except for his shaved pate: he's the wild man who bites the heads off chickens. Billy's also the one who explains "the turkey world and the carny world," and—answering the boy's question—how it is that T-John can stand "all those turkeys seeing Wanda naked." But the glazed, bored, carny look that the boy learns—and his comfort at being one of the family—don't survive a fatal knife fight between T-John and Wanda's former lover that snaps the two worlds together. Home again farming, he won't forget, though, and neither will the reader. The acute observations outweigh the portentousness.

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 1978

ISBN: 0812492110

Page Count: -

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1978

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

MAYBE

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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