Monday, October 12, 2009

PW's Starred Reviews

From Publisher's Weekly for the week of Oct. 12, 2009

Picturebooks

The Dinosaur Tamer by Carol Greathouse, illus. by John Shroades. Dutton, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-525-47866-9

Greathouse and Shroades's rollicking debut, set “back when the old, old West was still as green as a bristlecone pine and cowboys were as common as warts on a Stegosaurus,” introduces pint-sized cowboy Rocky who “teethed on a Deinonychus femur and used an Ankylosaurus tail as a rattle” and specializes in taming dinos of all sizes. Though the book is full of delightful hyperbole and outlandish claims, both author and artist sprinkle it with authentic dinosaur names and features; Shroades uses a palette of fantastical colors for his dinos, as when Rocky ropes a purple and blue stegosaurus “at ninety paces while wearin' a blindfold and eatin' a prickly pear.” But trouble surfaces with the arrival of T. Rex—the “rip-roarin'est, snip-snortin'est reptilian that ever did stomp the earth.” The artist wisely maintains T. Rex's slightly menacing and mischievous expression throughout, even when the tamed beast becomes “as docile as a fresh-hatched platypus pup.” Greathouse's humorous tall tale language never falters, and readers will relish cinematic scenes of Rocky and T. Rex tussling, creating several American landmarks in the process. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)

Fiction

Dog Days by Jeff Kinney. Abrams/Amulet, $13.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8109-8391-5

Is there a better remedy for the back-to-school doldrums than getting to see how Greg Heffley spent his summer vacation? If nothing else, the comedy of errors and indignities he suffers will make readers feel a whole lot better about any family vacation disasters of their own. In the fourth book in Kinney's bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Greg has a falling-out with his friend Rowley over a failed lawn-care business, puts up with his parents' attempts to get him out of the house (Mom organizes a book club for boys—who pick out titles like “Sudoku Insanity” and “Ultimate Video Game Cheats”) and tries to shake off the twin horrors of the murderous “muddy hand” from a horror film he watches and the terrifying sights in the men's locker room at the pool. Kinney's gift for telling, pitch-perfect details in both his writing and art remains (such as the cursive script and cutesy content of Mom's photo album captions). No reason to think kids won't devour this book as voraciously as its predecessors. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)

Nonfiction

Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don't You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge. Viking, $19.99 (80p) ISBN 978-0-670-01189-6

Partridge (This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie) tells the unsettling but uplifting story of the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965, using the voices of men and women who participated as children and teenagers. Their stories unfold over 10 chapters that detail voter discrimination and the subsequent meetings and protests that culminated in the famous march. Quotations from Joanne Blackmon Bland (first jailed at age 10), Charles Mauldin (a high school student) and other youths arrested and attacked make for a captivating, personal account. The chronological format builds suspense, while the narrative places readers at church meetings, in jail cells and at the march itself. Italicized lyrics to “freedom songs” are woven throughout, emphasizing the power drawn from music, particularly in the wake of the violence of Bloody Sunday (“They were willing to go out again and face state troopers and mounted posses with whips and tear gas and clubs. The music made them bigger than their defeat, bigger than their fear”). Powerful duotone photographs, which range from disturbing to triumphal, showcase the determination of these civil rights pioneers. Ages 10–up. (Oct.)

Congratulations to these authors!

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