Monday, June 29, 2009

PW's Starred Reviews

-- Publishers Weekly, 6/29/2009

Picture Books

Rattle and Rap by Susan Steggall. Frances Lincoln (PGW, dist.), $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-84507-703-7

Steggall's (The Life of a Car) virtuoso torn-paper collages follow a boy and his family on a train trip through the British countryside to the coast, where an unnamed (but grandmotherly) relative greets them with open arms. As the title hints, the economical text is strictly impressionistic: “Whoooooosh! Whoooooosh!... rocking and rolling and rushing and racing, skimming the sky, skimming the sky.” The detail-rich, full-spread pictures, however, are stunning in their evocation of the real world. Sleekly handsome, the long red, black and white–striped train cuts quite a figure, its boldly graphic exterior and zigzag shape playing counterpoint to lush hills, rippling waters and workaday towns. Steggall's tour de force appears near the end, when the train crosses a classic masonry arch bridge spanning an estuary. It's an image that's both postcard-perfect and triumphantly dynamic—a tribute to both the joys of trainspotting and the ingenuity of the human race. Ages 2–5. (July)

The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors by Chris Barton, illus. by Tony Persiani. Charlesbridge, $18.95 (44p) ISBN 978-1-57091-673-1

In this debut for both collaborators, Barton takes on the dual persona of popular historian and cool science teacher as he chronicles the Switzer brothers' invention of the first fluorescent paint visible in daylight. The aptly named Day-Glo, he explains, started out as a technological novelty act (Joe, an amateur magician, was looking for ways to make his illusions more exciting), but soon became much more: during WWII, one of its many uses was guiding Allied planes to safe landings on aircraft carriers. The story is one of quintessentially American ingenuity, with its beguiling combination of imaginative heroes (“Bob focused on specific goals, while Joe let his freewheeling mind roam every which way when he tried to solve a problem”), formidable obstacles (including, in Bob's case, a traumatic accident), a dash of serendipity and entrepreneurial zeal. Persiani's exuberantly retro 1960s drawings—splashed with Day-Glo, of course—bring to mind the goofy enthusiasm of vintage educational animation and should have readers eagerly following along as the Switzers turn fluorescence into fame and fortune. Ages 7–10. (July)

Congratulations to these authors!

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