MAGIC IN THE MARGINS

A MEDIEVAL TALE OF BOOKMAKING

Inspired by a vignette in a medieval manuscript, Nikola-Lisa introduces Simon, a talented young scriptorium apprentice whose artistic awakening comes only after the Abbot tells him to capture the mice with which the monastery is afflicted. Wondering what that could have to do with art, Simon sets out to catch the elusive creatures—and though he fails to lay hands on any, in time he does come to realize that “capture” means observing them closely and, on an additional hint from the Abbot, using his imagination to draw them with life and humor. Herself using medieval styles and materials, Christensen decorates the margins surrounding the text and her large, simply painted illustrations with leafy vines and small human figures, as well as fanciful flora and fauna. It’s salutary reading for budding artists, though those who want to know how manuscripts were actually produced and illuminated will find more detail in Bruce Robertson’s Marguerite Makes a Book (1999), illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt, or Deborah Nourse Lattimore’s Sailor Who Captured the Sea: A Story of the Book of Kells (1991). (afterword) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 14, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-618-49642-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

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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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TWENTY-ONE ELEPHANTS AND STILL STANDING

Strong rhythms and occasional full or partial rhymes give this account of P.T. Barnum’s 1884 elephant parade across the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge an incantatory tone. Catching a whiff of public concern about the new bridge’s sturdiness, Barnum seizes the moment: “’I will stage an event / that will calm every fear, erase every worry, / about that remarkable bridge. / My display will amuse, inform / and astound some. / Or else my name isn’t Barnum!’” Using a rich palette of glowing golds and browns, Roca imbues the pachyderms with a calm solidity, sending them ambling past equally solid-looking buildings and over a truly monumental bridge—which soars over a striped Big Top tent in the final scene. A stately rendition of the episode, less exuberant, but also less fictionalized, than Phil Bildner’s Twenty-One Elephants (2004), illustrated by LeUyen Pham. (author’s note, resource list) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-44887-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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