Review: Kali’s Song by Jeanette Winter

kalis song

Kali’s Song by Jeanette Winter

Kali’s mother painted amazing paintings of animals on their cave walls.  Soon Kali would be a man and so he started practicing with a bow and arrows.  But on his first session of practice, he discovered that he could do something else with the bow:  he could make music!  Soon he was making music instead of practicing his shooting at all.  When the day of the big hunt came, his bow was taut and his arrows sharp.  The men and boys approached the huge mammoths, that were far larger and more impressive than Kali had ever expected.  Kali forgot all about the hunt and just felt that he had to play the music he was hearing in his head.  As he played, the mammoths gathered closer around him and the other hunters laid down their bows.  Everyone realized that Kali must be a shaman to charm animals in this way.  Even as Kali grew much older, he continued to play music on his bow.

Winter has created such a remarkable story here.  It is a story without modern judgment about killing animals, which would be out of place in this book.  Yet Winter does not turn entirely away from modern sensibilities either with this book about a young shaman who does not kill, but instead charms.  It is a book that celebrates innate talents of people, relishes in inventiveness, and demonstrates a large heart for acceptance too.  Kali is not shunned for being different, but instead embraced for it. 

Winter’s illustrations are also very special.  Framed with torn edges, the illustrations are filled with the texture of papers that mimics that of cave walls.  The characters are roughly painted, just as his mother’s cave paintings are with additional fine details drawn on in ink.  The result is a book that is a winning combination of rough and fine. 

This picture book embraces differences, celebrates art and music, and does it all surrounded by stars and mammoths.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade Books.

Review: Bambino and Mr. Twain by P. I. Maltbie

bambino and mr twain

Bambino and Mr. Twain by P. I. Maltbie, illustrated by Daniel Miyares

In 1904, after losing his beloved wife, Mark Twain shut his door on the public life he had led.  Instead, he stayed indoors spending much of his time alone except for his daughter’s cat, Bambino.  The two of them grew closer as they played billiards together, shared ice cream for his birthday, and stayed together in a bed crowded with books and papers.  One day, after spotting a squirrel outside the window, Bambino leapt out and disappeared.  Twain put an ad in the paper and many people came with cats and kittens just to meet the famous author.  But none of the cats were Bambino.  Three days later, Bambino appeared on the doorstep as if nothing had happened.  Mark Twain took inspiration from his small companion, and started being part of public life again. 

This book explores the powerful relationship between people and animals.  It is also an exploration of grief and could be used with children in elementary school to discuss death and grief.  Maltbie includes many small touches about Twain, including those white suits, details about his wife, and traditions of their family.  Those little points create a much more human story, even though we are talking about one of the most famous authors ever. 

The black cat and the figure of Twain in his trademark white suit make for a great pairing visually as well.  Miyares’ illustrations are filled with great textures and colors, with the palette changing as the mood of Twain lifts.  The shadows are stronger when the grief is at its worst, but lightens and even brightens as the book continues. 

A personal look at a great figure of American literature, this book about Twain offers the depth of grief and the joy of connection with a pet.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.