AMZAT AND HIS BROTHERS

THREE ITALIAN FOLKTALES

A fine novelist passes along three stories told by Floriano Vecchi, born near Bologna (who heard them from his grandfather, b. 1850, who got them from his), explaining that these tales survive—with changes and additions in each generation—though Florian's village was destroyed in WW II. The stories—rich with folkloric themes, uncompromisingly unsentimental, and imbued with the kind of humor that makes the ironies of the human condition more endurable—are much enriched by Fox's wry, graceful retelling. In the title story, two angry men try to defraud their cheerful younger brother of the stony hilltop that's his meager patrimony; twice, Amzat tricks them harmlessly, but the third time his retribution is startlingly severe: he hoodwinks them into killing their wives and then themselves; an innocent bystander also perishes. ``Mezgalten'' is an intriguing variant of ``The Bremen Town Musicians,'' lively with dialogue and incident. In the third tale, two village outcasts (neither too bright: ``to Cucol a thought was...a beautiful cloud of meaning that he liked to study for a long time before he tried to make sense of it'') end up with their persecutors' wealth largely because of Cucol's amusing stupidity. McCully's frequent sepia drawings seem to have lost some delicacy in enlargement, but her caricatures complement Fox's wonderfully incisive depictions of human foibles. Not to be missed. (Folklore. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-531-05462-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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DONAVAN'S WORD JAR

Donavan's friends collect buttons and marbles, but he collects words. ``NUTRITION,'' ``BALLYHOO,'' ``ABRACADABRA''—these and other words are safely stored on slips of paper in a jar. As it fills, Donavan sees a storage problem developing and, after soliciting advice from his teacher and family, solves it himself: Visiting his grandma at a senior citizens' apartment house, he settles a tenants' argument by pulling the word ``COMPROMISE'' from his jar and, feeling ``as if the sun had come out inside him,'' discovers the satisfaction of giving his words away. Appealingly detailed b&w illustrations depict Donavan and his grandma as African-Americans. This Baltimore librarian's first book is sure to whet readers' appetites for words, and may even start them on their own savory collections. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: June 30, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-020190-8

Page Count: 72

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister:...

CORALINE

A magnificently creepy fantasy pits a bright, bored little girl against a soul-eating horror that inhabits the reality right next door.

Coraline’s parents are loving, but really too busy to play with her, so she amuses herself by exploring her family’s new flat. A drawing-room door that opens onto a brick wall becomes a natural magnet for the curious little girl, and she is only half-surprised when, one day, the door opens onto a hallway and Coraline finds herself in a skewed mirror of her own flat, complete with skewed, button-eyed versions of her own parents. This is Gaiman’s (American Gods, 2001, etc.) first novel for children, and the author of the Sandman graphic novels here shows a sure sense of a child’s fears—and the child’s ability to overcome those fears. “I will be brave,” thinks Coraline. “No, I am brave.” When Coraline realizes that her other mother has not only stolen her real parents but has also stolen the souls of other children before her, she resolves to free her parents and to find the lost souls by matching her wits against the not-mother. The narrative hews closely to a child’s-eye perspective: Coraline never really tries to understand what has happened or to fathom the nature of the other mother; she simply focuses on getting her parents back and thwarting the other mother for good. Her ability to accept and cope with the surreality of the other flat springs from the child’s ability to accept, without question, the eccentricity and arbitrariness of her own—and every child’s own—reality. As Coraline’s quest picks up its pace, the parallel world she finds herself trapped in grows ever more monstrous, generating some deliciously eerie descriptive writing.

Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister: Coraline is spot on. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-97778-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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