Cynthia Rylant is the author of more than 100 books for young
people, including the beloved Henry and Mudge, Annie and Snowball,
Brownie & Pearl, and Mr. Putter & Tabby series. Her novel
Missing May received the Newbery Medal. She lives in Lake
Oswego, Oregon. Visit her at CynthiaRylant.com.
S. D. Schindler is the popular and versatile illustrator of many books for children, including Big Pumpkin and the ALA Notable Book Don't Fidget a Feather, both by Erica Silverman, How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky, and Johnny Appleseed by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Rylant's comparatively short career has earned the poet and author an enviable reputation. Her second collection of short stories is set in the West Virginia hills, as were the entries in A Blue-Eyed Daisy. Artless, memorable telling creates tales with a common theme, the bond between animals and humans. ``Boar Out There,'' whispers Jenny, bemused by notions of a wilding with a golden crown. She ventures into the woods where the boar pounds towards her. Petrified, Jenny nonetheless notices, when the animal halts suddenly, its bloody and torn ears. The boar snorts, jerks and stares at the girl until a bluejay yells. Then it bolts in terror past her. Now she thinks about the boar with no crown, with wounded ears and she cries because the dangerous beast fears bluejays and little girls. ``Papa's Parrot'' has a message for callow Harry, 12, who can't spare the time to help his dad until a crisis brings him to mind the family store. Schindler's pictures are billed as decorations for obvious reasons; they adorn as well as illustrate the dozen stories by a uniquely gifted person. (1012)
Gr 6-9 Relationships with animals change the lives of the human characters in these 12 short stories. This framework unites a variety of plots and personalities: a retired schoolteacher acquires a ``retired'' dog and through her reestablishes contact with children; a pet turtle helps a ``slow'' boy finally gain recognition at school; a boy frightened of nuclear war is comforted by the existence of a herd of cows. These are not conventional animal stories. Rylant's deliberate, straightforward style hides a quiet intensity unusual in such short pieces. She builds plot and character simultaneously, with precisely chosen verbs and adverbs; no drawn-out descriptions are needed. A character takes a few steps, says a few words and readers know him. Although the style is not difficult to read, the tone of the stories, the basic sense of human loneliness and isolation which comes through, makes them more suitable for older readers. (One third of the stories have adult protagonists.) Besides being enjoyed for themselves, the stories would make a good classroom read-aloud, generating lots of discussion. They would also be suitable for older reluctant readers. Finely detailed, boxed pen-and-ink drawings of the animal protagonist, precede each story and express its tone. Ruth S. Vose, San Francisco Public Library