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Children's Book Reviews


Gathering in a Few Good Books

Kate Marley


Weslandia by Paul Fleischman c 1999, Candlewick Press.
This story about a boy named Wes is for anyone who is, has or has ever known a person who marches to a different drummer. Wes just doesn’t care for the same things as other kids such as pizza, football or soda. One summer, he decides to make a garden of whatever seeds happen to sprout - and an unknown but wondrous plant appears. His cultivation and applications of this new plant changes his life. Rich, colorful illustrations are by Kevin Hawkes.

Dr. White by Jane Goodall c 1999, North-South Books.
Making his rounds everyday, Dr. White dispensed his own special medicine to the sick children of a London hospital. But one day the health inspector saw Dr. White, and banned him just because he was a dog. The children and dog pined for each other in vain until one special child changes the health inspector’s mind. Beautifully and delicately illustrated by Julie Litty, this is based upon a true story and will charm young and old.

Tough Cookie by David Wisniewski. c 1999, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard.
Here’s another book that works on many levels! A private eye in a cookie jar looks for a way to stop the notorious criminal Fingers. Full of visual and wordy puns, this story’s simply lots of fun. Intricate cut paper illustrations by the author are, as usual, a treat.


Albertina the Practically Perfect by Susi Gregg Fowler. c 1998, Greenwillow.
Molly doesn’t want to move. She doesn’t want to leave her grandparents, her friends and her treehouse. But of course she has to, and quickly meets a girl who makes a perfect best friend. They do everything together, even building a new treehouse, until Albertina makes a bad mistake. Can this friendship be saved? Of course it can! Three color illustrations are by Jim Fowler.

Women Warriors by Marianna Myers. c 1999, Morrow.
This collection of "myths and legends of heroic women" is further proof that when the need arises, girls and women can perform memorable, heroic, and patriotic deeds. From Devi to Boadiccea and Aliquipiso, these women from all around the world demonstrate courage, fortitude and love. Color pictures are by Julek Heller.

Josie to the Rescue by Marilyn Singer. c 1999, Scholastic.
Her mom is expecting a baby and when Josie overhears her parents worrying about money, she resolves (in her helpful and decisive fashion) to fix the problem. Her schemes are hilarious, embarrassing and plentiful. And naturally, things don’t go as she planned them.

Not My Dog by Colby Rodowsky. c 1999, Farrar Straus Giroux.
Ellie 'inherits' a great-aunt’s dog when her aunt moves to a smaller place, and Ellie’s angry that this full grown dog is taking the place of a long promised puppy. She’s determined not to like this dog, because it means her dreams of a floppy eared puppy to train on her own will be gone. But Ellie has a hard time staying mad, and while it may be predictable, reading about how Preston wins Ellie over makes for a heartwarming story that’s helped by Thomas Yezerski’s humorous illustrations.


Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. c 1999, Delacorte.
Scrappy ten year old Bud has been a ward of the state since his mother's death when he was six, and after another unhappy experience with a foster family, decides to go and look for the man he believes to be his father. Since he’s black and living during the Depression, it’s a particularly hard time to be on the road all alone. His determination and keen, intelligent sense of humor make a very engaging character, and his search to find his family an absorbing adventure.

Ordinary Miracles by Stephanie S. Tolan. c 1999, Morrow.
Fundamentalists are not usually heros in mainstream children’s literature, so this book (the second about the Filkins family) has a different angle than most. Here, religion is a very real part of everyone’s life, not just the minister. The focus is on Mark, one of the twins, and his struggle with faith in the face of death, and with trying to be a separate person instead of only ‘a twin’. While disagreeing with his parents, Mark can still respect them, and that was the greatest thing about this book that everyone would do well to emulate: tolerance and respect for all viewpoints without losing one’s own faith. A wonderful and un-preachy story.

In My Hands by Irene Gut Opdyke. c 1999, Knopf.
This compelling biography about a young Catholic Polish girl during WWII makes the reader feel as if one was right there, listening to her story about defying the Nazis. It started out small, just leaving some food for hungry people. It gradually became more complicated and dangerous - but no matter the personal risk, Irene continued her sabotage. This was a moving story about responsibility and civil disobedience.

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All contents © 1999, Kate Marley. All rights reserved.