ROUGH SKETCH BEGINNING

In a work that attempts to capture the creative process of seeing and drawing, sparse, poetic descriptions of the natural world by Berry (Don't Leave an Elephant to Go and Chase a Bird, 1995, etc.) combine with crisp, labeled landscape studies, sketches, and paintings by Florczak (illustrator of Audrey Wood's The Rainbow Bridge, 1995). The link between text and illustration, always critical in a picture book but particularly crucial in this one, is established from the outset: ``I saw the sun/a bearded saint in bliss/curled in a face of fire'' is accompanied by three different views of clouds that extend the metaphor not literally—there are no saints or faces—but abstractly, only hinting at curly, fiery, beard-like shapes. Thus Florczak adds to the text by interpreting it with a poetry of his own. What becomes clear to readers is that the ability to look at the surrounding world and reproduce it, not just as it is but with interpretive license (in words or paint) and understanding, separates the artists from the replicators and recorders. Not all of the scenes illuminate the words so well: A creek is too placid for the line ``a silver road selfmade/ignoring boundaries,'' and despite an artist's note explaining a cumulative, four-page painting that incorporates the sketched elements into an idealized whole, it still works against the more humble pages that have preceded it. Those pages imply a trust, nudging readers to glean their own dramatic insights into the ways of the poets and artists. (Picture book. 7+)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-200112-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating...

FRINDLE

Nicholas is a bright boy who likes to make trouble at school, creatively. 

When he decides to torment his fifth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Granger (who is just as smart as he is), by getting everyone in the class to replace the word "pen'' with "frindle,'' he unleashes a series of events that rapidly spins out of control. If there's any justice in the world, Clements (Temple Cat, 1995, etc.) may have something of a classic on his hands. By turns amusing and adroit, this first novel is also utterly satisfying. The chess-like sparring between the gifted Nicholas and his crafty teacher is enthralling, while Mrs. Granger is that rarest of the breed: a teacher the children fear and complain about for the school year, and love and respect forever after. 

With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating tale—one to press upon children, and one they'll be passing among themselves. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-689-80669-8

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister:...

CORALINE

A magnificently creepy fantasy pits a bright, bored little girl against a soul-eating horror that inhabits the reality right next door.

Coraline’s parents are loving, but really too busy to play with her, so she amuses herself by exploring her family’s new flat. A drawing-room door that opens onto a brick wall becomes a natural magnet for the curious little girl, and she is only half-surprised when, one day, the door opens onto a hallway and Coraline finds herself in a skewed mirror of her own flat, complete with skewed, button-eyed versions of her own parents. This is Gaiman’s (American Gods, 2001, etc.) first novel for children, and the author of the Sandman graphic novels here shows a sure sense of a child’s fears—and the child’s ability to overcome those fears. “I will be brave,” thinks Coraline. “No, I am brave.” When Coraline realizes that her other mother has not only stolen her real parents but has also stolen the souls of other children before her, she resolves to free her parents and to find the lost souls by matching her wits against the not-mother. The narrative hews closely to a child’s-eye perspective: Coraline never really tries to understand what has happened or to fathom the nature of the other mother; she simply focuses on getting her parents back and thwarting the other mother for good. Her ability to accept and cope with the surreality of the other flat springs from the child’s ability to accept, without question, the eccentricity and arbitrariness of her own—and every child’s own—reality. As Coraline’s quest picks up its pace, the parallel world she finds herself trapped in grows ever more monstrous, generating some deliciously eerie descriptive writing.

Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister: Coraline is spot on. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-97778-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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