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Aunt Isabel Tells a Good One


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About the Author

Kate Duke is the author-illustrator of The Guinea Pig ABC, which The Horn Book hailed as "destined to become a classic," and One Guinea Pig Is Not Enough, as well as many other books for children. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.


Aunt Isabel is delighted to have her niece Penelope spend the night, and a made-to-order story is part of the package. Asking for guidance from Penelope along the way, Isabel weaves a story of a handsome prince and the enigmatic Lady Nell who can ``fiddle like a cricket, sing like a dove and wiggle her ears.'' Isabel may ask for help, but she is clearly in charge here, insisting on ``a little Danger'' and ``Villains'' to flesh out her tale. No passive heroine awaiting the prince's marriage proposal, Nell tackles adversity in fine fashion. In a stylistic departure for the gifted artist ( The Guinea Pig ABC ; Roseberry's Great Escape ), fanciful mice--somewhat reminiscent of Helen Craig's illustrations for the Angelina books--take the spotlight here, and the delicate watercolors brim with fairy-tale characters and atmosphere. Especially appealing are the artwork's winsome borders, adorned with tiny, appropriate decorative touches--sandwiches in the frame's corners when Nell is following a trail of crumbs, for example. Though the running conversation between narrator and Penelope at times detracts from the action, the diverting story-within-a-story is an inviting opportunity for youngsters to double their fun. Ages 4-7. (Feb.)

K-Gr 2-- When Aunt Isabel makes up a story for her niece Penelope, the tale she tells of Lady Nell and Prince Augustus is occasionally cliched but redeemed by a clever ending. As the young mouse helps her aunt weave the plot, Isabel provides a gentle lesson in story-making. The story within a story works mainly because of Duke's exuberant portrayal of her endearing mice. Children will identify with bright-eyed, feisty Penelope and will wish that they had a quirky aunt like Isabel (she's dressed in a 1920s flapper dress and sports a feathered headband). Because of the switches in narrative, the book would be best shared one-on-one or used as a language-arts supplement. An entertaining way to introduce children to the elements of storytelling while providing an impetus for their own creative endeavors. --Lori A. Janick, Parkwood Elementary School, Pasadena, TX

"Children will identify with bright-eyed, feisty Penelope. . . . An entertaining way to introduce [them] to the elements of storytelling."--School Library Journal

"All in all: an entertaining production."--Kirkus Reviews

"The droll, neatly executed watercolor illustrations are an integral part of the story. . . . A fine book to enjoy on its own merits, but it will also be useful for teachers."--Booklist

"Delicate watercolors brim with fairy-tale characters and atmosphere. . . . The diverting story-within-a-story is an inviting opportunity for youngsters to double their fun."--Publishers Weekly

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