Paul Fleischman, who wrote last year's sentimental Birthday Tree, is more successful (if not much more original) with this atmospheric story of a mute 12-year-old boy held as a prisoner/servant by a thieving, sinister old innkeeper. Aaron has wandered from home in search of his mother, who has failed to return from market during a bad blizzard. He is picked up by a good-natured rag man, but the man is illiterate, and so can't read Aaron's notes or comprehend the situation. When Aaron leaves the man's wagon to find help at an inn. he ends up in the clutches of frightful Miss Grackle—who reads his dreams, makes soup of his boots so he can't run away, and forces him to join her at night in the guests' rooms, where she peels back their eyelids and peeks in at their dreams, hoping some day to catch out a man rich enough to hold for ransom. (Ordinarily, she just picks their pockets.) This dream-reading bit is a good touch, and there are others—such as the curse that leaves Miss Grackle unable to light her fire, and eventually leaves her frozen to death with a bandit captive she thinks is a prince. Otherwise, if this is little more than an exercise in handling very old conventions, Fleischman has learned to wield the conventions most proficiently.

Pub Date: March 5, 1980

ISBN: 0812497643

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1980

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


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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With the same delightfully irreverent spirit that he brought to his retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" (1987), Marshall enlivens another favorite. Although completely retold with his usual pungent wit and contemporary touches ("I don't mind if I do," says Goldilocks, as she tries out porridge, chair, and bed), Marshall retains the stories well-loved pattern, including Goldilocks escaping through the window (whereupon Baby Bear inquires, "Who was that little girl?"). The illustrations are fraught with delicious humor and detail: books that are stacked everywhere around the rather cluttered house, including some used in lieu of a missing leg for Papa Bear's chair; comically exaggerated beds—much too high at the head and the foot; and Baby Bear's wonderfully messy room, which certainly brings the story into the 20th century. Like its predecessor, perfect for several uses, from picture-book hour to beginning reading.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1988

ISBN: 0140563660

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1988

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