Review: Oh, Harry! by Maxine Kumin

oh harry

Oh, Harry! by Maxine Kumin, illustrated by Barry Moser

Harry the horse did not have the lean lines of the other horses at the Adams & Son farm.  He wasn’t jittery or temperamental like the others either.  Instead, he was gentle, kind and calm.  When any other horse got out of line, Harry was brought in to calm the situation down.  He didn’t have a stall like the others either, instead he was allowed to move from spot to spot in the barn as he liked.  But then Algernon Adams, aged 6, arrived at the farm.  He ran around, yelled and scared the horses.  Until one evening, when he got shut in the grain bin.  All the people had left, only the horses were in the barn, including Harry.  And now Harry had a decision to make about the naughty young Algernon.

Kumin’s verse is playful and jaunty.  This is not poetry of a serious sort, but rather the type that skips along telling a story.  The rhymes read aloud well, moving the entire story along at a brisk pace.

Moser’s art offers a lot of range here.  His paintings show quiet moments of beautiful horses together.  They also show silly moments with Harry and Algernon.  They have deep colors placed again white space that really make the images pop.

A winning combination of engaging verse and art, this picture book will be appreciated by horse lovers of any age.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Magic Trash by Jane Shapiro

magic trash

Magic Trash: A Story of Tyree Guyton and His Art by J. H. Shapiro, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

This is the life story of Tyree Guyton.  Tyree grew up in Detroit in a large family.  He was always picking up stray objects and creating things with them.  At age nine, Tyree decided he wanted to be an artist.  But as the years passed, he worked many jobs, none of them artistic.  When he returned back home, his street has changed from a bustling neighborhood into a stretch of dilapidated  houses.  So Tyree went to work, painting everything he could find.  Houses got polka dots, bright colors were everywhere, found objects were incorporated.  But not everyone loved Tyree’s work, they considered it garbage.  Houses were knocked down by the city, until finally after years, Tyree’s art was safe.  This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Heidelberg Project, certainly something to celebrate!

Shapiro has written this book with a sparkle and jazz that suits the subject.  Her storytelling is impressive as she creates moods that change from one page to the next as the story progresses.  She weaves in rhyming lines at times, adding to the distinctive feel of her words.

Brantley-Newton’s art is done in mixed media, incorporating found objects, torn pages filled with words, painting, pattern and texture.  Her art is bright, beautiful and vibrant.  Against the distinctive backgrounds, her characters stand out with great charm.

A look at street art that is part of the street, this book will be enjoyed by art teachers and budding young artists alike.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.

2011 Winners of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards


The Children’s Book Council of Australia has announced the winners of their 2011 awards.


Older Readers Book of the Year


The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett



Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

The Life of a Teenage Body-Snatcher by Doug MacLeod


Younger Readers Book of the Year


The Red Wind by Isobelle Carmody



Just a Dog by Michael Gerard Bauer

Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford, illustrated by Sarah Davis


Early Childhood Book of the Year


Maudie and Bear by Jan Ormerod, illustrated by Freya Blackwood



The Tall Man and the Twelve Babies by Tom Niland Champion and Kilmeny Niland, illustrated by Deborah Niland

Look See, Look at Me by Leonie Norrington, illustrated by Dee Huxley


Picture Book of the Year



Mirror by Jeannie Baker

Hamlet by Nicki Greenberg



Why I Love Australia by Bronwyn Bancroft

My Uncle’s Donkey by Tohby Riddle


Eve Pownall Book of the Year


The Return of the Word Spy by Ursula Dubosarsky, illustrated by Tohby Riddle



Drawn from the Heart: A Memoir by Ron Brooks

Our World: Bardi Jaawi: Life at Ardiyooloon

Review: Drawing from Memory by Allen Say

drawing from memory

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say

Released September 1, 2011.

This is a captivating look at the life of Allen Say and his journey to become an illustrator.  It begins with his childhood in Yokohama, Japan which he had to flee when the bombings started in 1941.  As a child, his mother kept him safe at home and not out playing near the water.  He learned to read early and fell in love with comics, deciding at a young age to become an artist.  His father dismissed his dreams, wanting him to follow a more respectable path.  Say lived with his grandmother while he went to school until at age 12, he moved and lived alone in a rented apartment in Tokyo.  Following his dream, he approached the famous cartoonist, Noro Shinpei in the hopes of becoming his student.  Say found his sensei and a new father figure in his life.  Readers will discover the long hours, hard work, and talent that made Say the artist he is.

Say weaves photographs, drawings and paintings together into an extraordinary look at his life.  The text blends humor  with  brutal honesty about his family’s lack of support for his endeavors.  Always the book is optimistic, exploring the dedication that it takes to attain greatness.  It will serve as inspiration for young artists who may themselves be being ridiculed for their dreams.

More than a graphic novel, this is an autobiography told in images and words that is surprising, moving and luminous.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

Also reviewed by

Review: Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer

blood wounds

Released September 12, 2011.

Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Willa’s life may not be perfect, she lives in a blended family with sisters who get their expensive hobbies and trips paid for by their mother, while Willa doesn’t get those opportunities.  Their family is happy though.  Of course, there’s a reason that Willa feels the need to cut, so maybe things aren’t as good as they seem.  Then one day, with a series of murders in a faraway state, Willa’s life is thrown into crisis.  Her biological father is on the run after killing his wife and children, and he’s probably headed to get Willa next.  As the crisis throws their life into turmoil, Willa discovers more about her family than she’d ever known, including secrets that answer a lot of the questions she’s never dared to ask.

Pfeffer has created a book that starts with a thrilling premise but that turns out to be less of a thriller and more of a psychological look at a teen girl who has to deal with the aftermath of her father’s madness.  Willa is a very intriguing and complex heroine.  She struggles to be the perfect daughter, never revealing what she really thinks to her family.  On the inside though she is filled with doubts, with unvoiced thoughts, and with resentment.  With her father’s murders her life begins to reflect more of her inner world, becoming just as confused and tumultuous. 

The writing here is very well crafted.  With so many themes: blended families, cutting, murder and forgiveness, it could have become muddled.  Instead the themes support one another, creating a tapestry of interwoven ideas that strengthen one another. 

Readers will pick the book up for the thrilling premise and then be riveted as they discover a much more complicated read than they were expecting.  Appropriate for ages 13-15.

Reviewed from ARC received from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Also reviewed by

Review: Squish Rabbit by Katherine Battersby

squish rabbit

Squish Rabbit by Katherine Battersby

Squish is such a little rabbit that no one seems to see him or hear him.  So he made himself a stuffed rabbit friend.  But that only helped his loneliness for a little bit.  He tried playing with the trees, but they didn’t play fair.  Finally, Squish lost his temper and threw a tantrum.  He kicked an apple high into the air, and someone saw and thought it was a game.  Squish saw that the squirrel was heading for a cliff chasing the apple and finally found his voice.  And a new friend.

Battersby has created a picture book with an exceptional amount of appeal.  Her text is simple and understated, allowing the pictures to tell the rest of the story at times.  And what pictures they are!  Done in mixed media collage, the illustrations are winningly simple.  They have a charming ease to them, especially the depiction of Squish, done in white with free black lines.  The mixed media comes in with cut paper, fabrics, and watercolors that give great texture and color.

Highly recommended, this is a superb picture book that small children will relate to and that is also beautiful and stylish.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking.

Bewitching Cover to Be Changed

Yesterday I posted about an amazing similarity between two covers.  Today, I am pleased to follow up with the news that the cover art for Bewitching by Alex Flinn is going to be changed. 

The entire thing has been handled with a grace and style that is laudable.  Well done!

Review: Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio

zombie in love

Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Scott Campbell

Mortimer the zombie is lonely.  Cupid’s Ball is approaching and he has no one to take.  He does try hard, giving girls candy, hearts, and even diamonds.  But something about him seems to turn them off.  He tries reading advice books, working out, and dance lessons, but nothing worked.  Finally, he takes out an ad in the paper (which Jimmy Buffet fans will be able to hum along to) that invites that special someone to meet him at Cupid’s Ball.  He dresses up and sits by the punch bowl.  But no one takes any notice of him.  Finally, he decides to leave, until he hears a crash behind him, just in time.

DiPucchio fills this book with plenty of zombie puns.  Just the personals ad alone offers plenty of laughs.  She has created a book that works on many levels.  Children will enjoy the simple storyline while tweens and teens will get the puns and antics. 

A lot of the humor is visual in this book.  Campbell’s illustrations have a great wild and zany quality to them that suits the story.  From the dangling eyeball of Mortimer’s skeleton dog to the worms that appear throughout the book, there is plenty to love here.

A wonderful pick for either Halloween or Valentine’s Day or any day in between, this book is a funny look at love, zombie style.  Appropriate for ages 6-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Another Cover Controversy

Two very similar covers, right?  Well, according to the artist who created the cover on the left, the Bewitching cover is a copy.  HarperCollins invited artist Nathalia Suellen to create the cover for Bewitching, but Suellen refused the job because the art had already been sold to another book.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.  But the two are strikingly similar, aren’t they?

Thanks to The Centered Librarian for the story.