Carolinda Clatter! By Mordicai Gerstein
If you are wondering what has become of children's books with the sweeping, mythic dimension of classic folktales, here is proof that the genre still has life in it. Gerstein's stirring story covers hundreds of thousands of years and a vast landscape; his illustrations rise to the realm of Chagall-like lyric fantasy. He tells of the earth's last giant, who, exhausted by his unrequited love for the moon, falls asleep and over the centuries becomes a mountain. In a town (Pupickton--from the Yiddish for belly button) built on his belly, the residents live in fear of waking him, until one day rambunctious little Carolinda does so. Sent to placate him, she sings a lullaby that soothes him into eternal sleep, after which her gift fosters a tradition of singing that makes the town famous. Gerstein's story lacks only one thing: an enterprising composer who can turn it into an opera.
Roaring Brook Press; $16.95
FOOD FOR THOUGHT By Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers
Put together a cluster of endive, a curved squash and two strips of greens, and what do you have? Why, a duck. How about a cauliflower, a black olive and four stems? A sheep. A pineapple half and chunks of green pepper? A turtle. Those are what you get in Freymann's antic, ingenious sculptures of fruits and vegetables. Some of his creations are scarcely altered. It's amazing how easily a sweet potato morphs into a guinea pig, or bok choy into a fish. Others are more elaborate, as when he shapes bananas into the heads of giraffes, then a zebra and, yes, an airplane. The book has five sections in which Freymann's fancies illustrate shapes, colors, numbers, letters and opposites. His inventiveness never flags, nor will the reader's delight. Caution to parents: This book may give kids ideas about what to do with dinner besides eating it.
Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic; $14.95
ROSA By Nikki Giovanni Illustrated by Bryan Collier
On Dec. 1, 1955, "Mrs. Parks was having a good day," writes Giovanni at the start of her retelling of the Rosa Parks story. But, as most Americans know, that chilly, ordinary workday of an extraordinary seamstress in Montgomery, Ala., ultimately helped ignite the civil rights movement. Giovanni, a poet and black activist, keeps her evident moral outrage in check as she tells the tale of Parks' bus ride into history, maintaining the same firm, level tone that Parks did when she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus to a white man. Parks, Giovanni writes, was tired. "She was tired of 'Colored' entrances, 'Colored' balconies, 'Colored' drinking fountains and 'Colored' taxis. She was tired of getting somewhere first and being waited on last. Tired of 'separate,' and definitely tired of 'not equal.'"
Collier's richly colored watercolors and collages, like Giovanni's text, portray an impassioned episode boldly but with dignified restraint. In light of Parks' death at age 92 in October, this book seems especially timely. But its message of quiet courage is timeless.
Henry Holt; $16.95
HOW DO DINOSAURS EAT THEIR FOOD? By Jane Yolen & Mark Teague