DONNA JO NAPOLI is the award-winning author of many novels, including Zel. She is a professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. JIM LaMARCHE is the illustrator of many popular children's books, including The Carousel by Liz Rosenberg. He lives in Santa Cruz, California.
K-Gr 4-Sitting in his apartment, Albert enjoys listening to "good" noises (giggling children, a singing mailman). Each day, the man sticks his hand out through the grillwork on his window and considers whether or not to go out. Inevitably, he hears a "bad" noise (a garbage truck, people arguing), decides that the weather isn't right, and retreats to read comics or listen to baseball games. His routine takes a dramatic turn when a twig falls into his outstretched hand, and two cardinals build a nest and lay their eggs. Unable to retrieve his arm without harming the nest, he remains there, night and day, until the eggs hatch. Meanwhile, he observes not just the unpleasant side of the outside world, but also the many possibilities it offers. By the time he helps the last fledgling learn to fly, he is ready to venture out, and even to soar into the sky on a swing. In her first picture book, novelist Napoli proves that she can develop an interesting character in a tighter format. The introduction of the cardinals makes the story of an agoraphobic man accessible to children. The illustrations, done in colored pencils on textured paper, create a casual, rough-around-the-edges look that is just right for this story. Try pairing this book with tales of other intriguing loners, such as Ikarus in Christopher Myers's Wings (Scholastic, 2000) or Old Sam in Patricia Zelver's The Wonderful Towers of Watts (Morrow, 1994; o.p.). An admirable debut.-Wendy Lukehart, Harrisburg School District, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Napoli's (Beast) first picture book spins a beguiling tale of a recluse forced out of his shell through unlikely circumstances. Sticking his hand through the window grillwork each day to check the weather, Albert invariably decides it's "too cold," "too damp" or "too breezy" to venture out. Instead of going for a walk he "listened to baseball games on the radio and cut pictures out of magazines and wrote postcards he never mailed." One day when he stretches his hand outside his window, a pair of cardinals build a nest in it. Reluctant to destroy the nest, Albert sleeps standing up and guards the eggs while the parents are foraging. He thus discovers that the world is not so forbidding, and decides it's time to test his own wings. Napoli effortlessly incorporates the twin metaphors of Albert reaching out to the world around him and baby birds learning to fly in flawless prose. LaMarche (The Rainbabies) luminescent colored pencil illustrations in turn reflect the tale's quiet charm. The artist is in complete control of his imagery from start to finish: A literal foreshadowing in the opening scene shows the shadow of the birds perched on grillwork crossbars projected onto the wall, symbolizing both imprisonment and freedom; in the final scene, Albert "flies" on a swing in a city park. The artist captures Albert's gentle eccentricity in his Edwardian haircut and oddly formal clothing. A magical marriage of art and text. Ages 5-8. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
"A good read-aloud book for the whole family . . . Delightful."--Houston Chronicle "An admirable debut."--School Library Journal (starred review) "A beguiling tale . . . A magical marriage of art and text."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)