The Quiet Place
by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small
Margaret Ferguson Books, 2012
Isabel and her family move from rural Mexico to urban Minnesota. A vast difference in climate, culture, and language. Isabel finds solace in writing to her Auntie Lupita and in a large refrigerator box. She decorates the box with colors and things from Mexico. When the box is ruined in the rain, she collects other boxes to build herself a new quiet place. Through letters to her Auntie and illustrations of her expanding box collection, we follow Isabel through adjustments at school, in the neighborhood, and in making new friends. It culminates with a celebration where she shares her decorated boxes and other creative activities with other children. Going to school the next day is easier.
The Quiet Place is based on a true story of a friend of author Sarah Stewart.
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Catch that Cookie!
By Hallie Durand, illustrated by David Small
Dial Books, 2014
Catch that Cookie! is a mystery and humor book rolled into one. It opens with Marshall, who starts out a firm skeptic about the idea that gingerbread men (g-men) could run away, like the folk tale says. But he joins in with his classmates to make and bake his own g-man. When they gather around the oven to remove the cookies, they find an empty oven! A note sends them looking; another note sends them looking again and again, until they all become stumped—except for Marshall. Working the clues, he comes up with an idea of where the cookies could be, and leads everyone to the g-men! Now Marshall is a firm believer that g-men can run away, and when he gets in the car, he orders his father to lock the doors to ensure his g-man gets home.
The award-winning artist, David Small, has created illustrations that jump across each page. To an already good story, he adds mountains of humor, action, joy and fun. It’s easy to follow the many emotions the children display as they discover the missing g-men and follow the clues.
Review originally published in San Francisco Book Review.
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That Book Woman
By Heather Henson, illustrated by David Small
Atheneum Books, 2008
Told from the point of view of an older brother who resisted reading, thinking it more important to work the land, we learn about the brave Pack Horse Librarians, known as the “Book Women” (most were women) who, through the US Work Progress Administration program, served people in remote regions where even schools aren’t available. They came every two weeks.
We open with Cal glowering at this sister Lark who “would keep her nose a-twixt the pages of a book daybreak to dusky dark”. Without his nose in a book, he is the first to hear the lady riding a sorrel mare. The lady brings in a leather bag of books and leaves them. The family offers a poke of berries for a trade, but the women says they are free, there is no charge, and the children are relieved they will have their cherished pie. Cal thinks this is all a waste of time. The women comes rain, snow or shine; she even came during the worst blizzard, knowing, “My horse will see me home.” Why would that women risk her life in the blizzard, Cal begins to wonder. What’s in those books? He picks up a book and asks Lark to teach him what it says. It’s not until next spring before the woman sits and visits a spell and mom gifts her with her most prized possession, her mother’s recipe to berry pie. Cal says he wishes he had something to give, and the librarian asks him to read something to her, and says, “That’s gift enough.”
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