LETTERS TO ANYONE AND EVERYONE

In a set of surreal, mostly epistolary vignettes, Elephant begs permission to stand on Snail’s house (Snail politely declines), Crow writes a gloomy letter to Sparrow and gets a heartening response, Carp pens a prayer addressed: “Dear Stranger,” Squirrel writes to his table and also to the very letter he’s writing and on the last day of the year all of the animals get together to send a “cordial begging letter” to the sun, who answers “See you soon.” It’s hard to know what young readers will make of these and the other dozen or so exchanges; the prose has an introspective, dreamlike quality, but unlike Tellegen’s Squirrel’s Birthday and Other Parties (2009), there’s no clear linking theme to compensate for the lack of a plot arc or line, and the characters are etched in low relief at best. The author has been popular in the Netherlands for many years, but this outing is unlikely to extend the borders of his fan base. Illustrations not seen. (Belles lettres. 9-11)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-906250-95-9

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Boxer Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2009

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RED-EYED TREE FROG

Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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KENNY & THE DRAGON

Reports of children requesting rewrites of The Reluctant Dragon are rare at best, but this new version may be pleasing to young or adult readers less attuned to the pleasures of literary period pieces. Along with modernizing the language—“Hmf! This Beowulf fellow had a severe anger management problem”—DiTerlizzi dials down the original’s violence. The red-blooded Boy is transformed into a pacifistic bunny named Kenny, St. George is just George the badger, a retired knight who owns a bookstore, and there is no actual spearing (or, for that matter, references to the annoyed knight’s “Oriental language”) in the climactic show-fight with the friendly, crème-brulée-loving dragon Grahame. In look and spirit, the author’s finely detailed drawings of animals in human dress are more in the style of Lynn Munsinger than, for instance, Ernest Shepard or Michael Hague. They do, however, nicely reflect the bright, informal tone of the text. A readable, if denatured, rendition of a faded classic. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4169-3977-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2008

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