THE BIRTHDAY TREE

A new illustrator gives both color and more variety in the visuals to Fleischman’s 1979 tale of a child who leaves but then comes back. The text is nearly unchanged. Having lost three children to the sea, a sailor and his wife pull up stakes and head inland. Settling far enough away, or so they think, they raise another son, who develops an unusual affinity with an apple tree that was planted at his birth—and, one day, disappears seaward himself. The couple is able to track the son’s changing fortunes by the condition of the tree. They give up hope when it turns dry, brown and leafless, but just as they’re packing up to go even further inland it revives, and they return to the house to find their son asleep in his bed. Marcia Sewell illustrated the original in monochrome swirls; like her, Root places windswept figures at some distance from the foreground and, generally, facing away from viewers. But his muted colors add lyrical touches, and he creates wider backdrops to evoke the couple’s lonely isolation. This is addressed more to parents than children, but the tree’s role adds a touch of magic that may appeal to younger listeners. (Picture book. 7-9, adult)

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7636-2604-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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TEA WITH MILK

In describing how his parents met, Say continues to explore the ways that differing cultures can harmonize; raised near San Francisco and known as May everywhere except at home, where she is Masako, the child who will grow up to be Say’s mother becomes a misfit when her family moves back to Japan. Rebelling against attempts to force her into the mold of a traditional Japanese woman, she leaves for Osaka, finds work as a department store translator, and meets Joseph, a Chinese businessman who not only speaks English, but prefers tea with milk and sugar, and persuades her that “home isn’t a place or a building that’s ready-made or waiting for you, in America or anywhere else.” Painted with characteristic control and restraint, Say’s illustrations, largely portraits, begin with a sepia view of a sullen child in a kimono, gradually take on distinct, subdued color, and end with a formal shot of the smiling young couple in Western dress. A stately cousin to Ina R. Friedman’s How My Parents Learned To Eat (1984), also illustrated by Say. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-90495-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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KEVIN AND HIS DAD

There is something profoundly elemental going on in Smalls’s book: the capturing of a moment of unmediated joy. It’s not melodramatic, but just a Saturday in which an African-American father and son immerse themselves in each other’s company when the woman of the house is away. Putting first things first, they tidy up the house, with an unheralded sense of purpose motivating their actions: “Then we clean, clean, clean the windows,/wipe, wipe, wash them right./My dad shines in the windows’ light.” When their work is done, they head for the park for some batting practice, then to the movies where the boy gets to choose between films. After a snack, they work their way homeward, racing each other, doing a dance step or two, then “Dad takes my hand and slows down./I understand, and we slow down./It’s a long, long walk./We have a quiet talk and smile.” Smalls treats the material without pretense, leaving it guileless and thus accessible to readers. Hays’s artwork is wistful and idyllic, just as this day is for one small boy. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-79899-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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