HARMONICA NIGHT

The ocean is the magnet that draws a family out at night for a moonlight picnic. A little boy and his grandmother tiptoe outside in the dark, to play at being pirates with Uncle Pat, to be spooked by sister Nell in her ghostly nightgown, and to be nearly abducted by a sea monster—Mom. Grandad builds a campfire to scare away real sea monsters, and the family sips juice and munches crackers, listening to Uncle Pat's harmonica music while the moon sets. When the night comes to a close, the young narrator falls asleep back in his own bed, with the barely audible murmur of the sea as his lullaby. The poetic text makes jumps that very young readers will find confusing, e.g., the leap between ``Mom'' and the sea monster. But vivid watercolor washes that superimpose an astronomer's chart on moonglow and a map on Aunt Jane's dress, combined with Helldorfer's many apt turns of phrase, will make readers hear the ocean in conch shells, taste salt air, and recall the feeling of sand beneath their toes as they turn these pages. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-689-80532-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1997

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JINGLE DANCER

A contemporary Native American girl follows in her grandmother’s footsteps (literally and figuratively), dancing the traditional jingle dance at the powwow. Jenna, a member of the Creek Nation in Oklahoma, dreams of dancing the jingle dance with the women of her tribe and is delighted when her grandmother tells her that she can dance with the other girls at the next powwow. But there is one problem—there won’t be enough time to order the materials to make the four rows of jingles that are attached to the dress. If Jenna wants to hear the tink, tink, tink sound that the tin jingles make, she’ll have to figure out a way to get the jingles on her own. Fortunately, Jenna is resourceful and knows just what to do. She visits great-aunt Sis, her friend Mrs. Scott, and cousin Elizabeth and borrows a row of jingles from each of them. (Jenna can only borrow one row of jingles apiece—otherwise each dress will lose its “voice.”) While the problem of finding the jingles on her own doesn’t seem challenging enough for the approbation Jenna receives at the end of the story for her resourcefulness, children will enjoy watching her figure out the solution to her problem. The watercolor illustrations clearly and realistically depict what is happening in the story. The layout of the book is straightforward—mostly double-page spreads that extend all the way to the edges of the paper. Jenna lives in what looks like a nice suburban house, the others seem solidly middle-class, and cousin Elizabeth is a lawyer. The author is deliberately showing us, it would seem, that all Native Americans are not poor or live on rundown reservations. A useful portrayal of an important cultural event in a Creek girl’s year. (author’s note, glossary) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: April 30, 2000

ISBN: 0-688-16241-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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