Less stylish than Ed Young’s classic Seven Blind Mice but a serviceable rendition nonetheless.

ELEPHANT IN THE DARK

An Iranian-American author recasts an anecdote from the Persian poet Rumi, itself based on a far older tale about perceiving parts of a truth rather than its whole.

Javaherbin adds characters and plot to the bare-bones original and reduces Rumi’s lengthy mystical exegesis to a line. So curious are local villagers about the strange beast Ahmad the merchant has brought from India that they sneak into the dark barn where the creature is kept. Each returns with a different impression: one trips over the animal’s nose and announces that it’s like a snake, but it is more like a tree to one who feels its leg, and so on. Their squabble is so intense that they don’t even notice when Ahmad arrives to lead the elephant out to the river—leaving each with “only a small piece of the truth.” Yelchin outfits the villagers in curly-toed slippers and loose, brightly patterned caftans. He also puts a nifty spin on the story by leaving the adults to argue obliviously but surrounding the elephant at the wordless end with smiling, plainly clearer-eyed children. Though the language is bland, the wildly gesticulating figures in the illustrations add a theatrical element, and the episode makes its points in a forthright way. An excellent source note traces the familiar tale back to its earliest versions.

Less stylish than Ed Young’s classic Seven Blind Mice but a serviceable rendition nonetheless. (Picture book/folk tale. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-63670-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably...

LOST AND FOUND

A lad finds a penguin on his doorstep and resolutely sets out to return it in this briefly told import. 

Eventually, he ends up rowing it all the way back to Antarctica, braving waves and storms, filling in the time by telling it stories. But then, feeling lonely after he drops his silent charge off, he belatedly realizes that it was probably lonely too, and turns back to find it. Seeing Jeffers’s small, distant figures in wide, simply brushed land- and sea-scapes, young viewers will probably cotton to the penguin’s feelings before the boy himself does—but all’s well that ends well, and the reunited companions are last seen adrift together in the wide blue sea. 

Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably with this—slightly—less offbeat friendship tale. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24503-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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A close encounter of the best kind.

FIELD TRIP TO THE MOON

Left behind when the space bus departs, a child discovers that the moon isn’t as lifeless as it looks.

While the rest of the space-suited class follows the teacher like ducklings, one laggard carrying crayons and a sketchbook sits down to draw our home planet floating overhead, falls asleep, and wakes to see the bus zooming off. The bright yellow bus, the gaggle of playful field-trippers, and even the dull gray boulders strewn over the equally dull gray lunar surface have a rounded solidity suggestive of Plasticine models in Hare’s wordless but cinematic scenes…as do the rubbery, one-eyed, dull gray creatures (think: those stress-busting dolls with ears that pop out when squeezed) that emerge from the regolith. The mutual shock lasts but a moment before the lunarians eagerly grab the proffered crayons to brighten the bland gray setting with silly designs. The creatures dive into the dust when the bus swoops back down but pop up to exchange goodbye waves with the errant child, who turns out to be an olive-skinned kid with a mop of brown hair last seen drawing one of their new friends with the one crayon—gray, of course—left in the box. Body language is expressive enough in this debut outing to make a verbal narrative superfluous.

A close encounter of the best kind. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4253-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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