Archive for November 19, 2010


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Nini Lost and Found by Anita Lobel

This second book about Nini the cat follows the award-winning Nini Here and There that won a Caldecott Honor in 2007.   In this book, Nini discovered that the door to the house has been left open and escaped out into the garden.  While the house was cozy, the outdoors was also fun.  There were grasses, flowers, and an entire woods to explore.  But when night falls, the woods became more frightening, darker and filled with noises that could be large animals coming after her.  Nini hid under a tree, but realized that she could not just stay there.  That’s when she heard voices calling her from the house.  With a burst of courage, Nini ran home, through the open door that closed behind her.  Back to the familiar things and smells and food.  She was very happy to be home and safe, for now.

Lobel’s deep colored illustrations show both the comforts of home and the enticements of the outdoors as equally welcoming.  The richness of the autumnal landscape brings a warmth to the outdoors, inviting both Nini and readers to explore.  Children will understand Nini’s wish to escape, wander and explore.  They will also understand her conflicting desire for safety and warmth.  It is a gentle take on the theme of running away from home.  When the book turns darker with nightfall, Lobel’s color palette turns to deep blues, blacks and browns.  The contrast is distinct and makes for a more chilling moment when Nini is hiding and scared.  The contrast is clear and effective.

This simple picture book will be enjoyed by children for many different reasons.  Some for the story of a cat, others will see the parallel with children running away, and others will enjoy the adventure at night in the dark.  I look for books that can be enjoyed by many types of children for different reasons.  This is most certainly one of them.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Knopf.

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Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Dave the Potter was an outstanding artist, poet and potter whose influence is still evident in South Carolina pottery.  He lived in the 1800s and created his pottery with amazing skill, building enormous pots that could up to 40 gallons.  He was one of only two potters known to have the strength and skill to create such large pieces.  Dave was also a poet, inscribing his verse on his pottery, offering two lines of poetry and then a date.  His poems have the beauty and simplicity of Haiku and offer a unique perspective of a poet surviving in slavery.  This is a picture book that makes an important figure in history come alive, revealing his art and poetry for children. 

Hill has created a free verse of his own to tell the story of the life of Dave.  Hill’s verse is simple and striking, drawing together the connections between the simple ingredients of the clay and what it can become and the simple life of a slave and the wonder of what Dave created.  The poem leads children through the stages of making a pot from the gathering of the clay to the magic and work of creating pottery.  The book ends with more of Dave’s poetry as well as an author’s note and an illustrator’s note.  All of them speaking to the influence and importance of Dave the Potter.

Collier’s art work here is stunningly beautiful.  His watercolor and collage art speaks to the strength of Dave, the skill of his hands and the glory of his work.  The colors are rich and deep, filled with a warm earthiness that evokes pottery and clay. 

A radiant tribute to an artist, this picture book echoes the transcendent artist that Dave was.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

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