THE DIVIDE

A picture book about what Willa Cather may have experienced as a child when her family moved west. Winter on the plains, on the Divide in Nebraska, was a mean season: ``There were no farms, no hills, no trees, only the flat, silent land beneath the vast, unbroken sky. She felt they had come to the end of things.'' But then came spring, ``like a shy child bringing gifts of flowers to the door,'' and Willa melts. As Bedard (Painted Devil, 1994, etc.) tells it, Cather delighted in the china sky, the fresh-plowed earth, and the few scattered neighbors: Swedes and Danes, Bohemians and Norwegians. ``Their speech was slow, their words were spare.'' The child comes to love the place: Spring slips into a hot, sunflowered summer, which gives way to a copper-colored autumn, the land ``strong and still and free,'' and brought to life in McCully's watercolors, which can be pensive, expansive, or joy-filled, as required. The metaphors are overtaxed (Willa marvels over the shells she brought with her from the East, ``so plain without, so pearled within''—just like her neighbors, just like the Divide), but a sense emerges of what it is like to be young and scared in a new landscape. The afterword makes reference to Cather's writings, but does not list specific sources for Bedard's text. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-385-32124-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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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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A DOG NAMED SAM

A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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