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Three Cheers for Catherine the Great!


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About the Author

Cari Best's books include Shrinking Violet and Goose's Story. She lives in Weston, Connecticut. Giselle Potter an award-winning illustrator. She lives in Kingston, New York.


Gr 2-5-Sara narrates this story about her grandmother, who came to the U.S. from Russia many years ago and is nicknamed Catherine the Great. When Grandma insists that she wants "no presents" for her birthday this year, Sara, her mother, and their neighbors all seek the perfect NO PRESENT. On the night of the party, Mary Caruso sings a love song in Russian, Mr. Minsky shares a waltz with Grandma, Mama presents her with their "coming-to-America picture" in a frame, and-best of all-Sara promises to teach her to read and write in English. Potter goes into as much detail in her watercolor illustrations as Best suggests in her text, with humorous spot and full-page paintings in warm tones that capture the celebratory mood of the story. When Grandma speaks in Russian, there's no pronunciation guidance for the Cyrillic text so those who want to read this aloud will need to do a little extra research; however, a note from the author explains that she wanted to "give a sense of the difference between Catherine's language and Sara's." Because of the pacing of the narrative and the detail in the pictures, this long picture book begs to be taken slowly; readers will be rewarded with an endearing portrayal of a family, a neighborhood, and a "Great" person.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Best (Last Licks) and Potter (When Agnes Caws) join their considerable talents for a not-to-be-missed borscht-and-blintzes birthday party for a hardworking Russian grandmother. The tenants in Sara's apartment building have all been invited to Grandma Catherine's party, and Grandma has insisted there be no presents. Sara (along with the neighbors) decides to study Grandma so she can think up the perfect "no present." Over the course of the week, Grandma plays a Russian clapping song to quiet Mary Caruso's baby, Mimmo; bakes a sardine pie for Mr. Minsky's cat; and listens as Sara recites her poems. Best's folksy tale is freckled with offbeat imagery (an "alphabet moon" describes a C-shaped crescent) and appealing human and animal characters. Potter's delectably skewed watercolors extend the intimacy of Best's narrative and capture the tender bond between Sara and Grandma. Patterns of flowers and stripes, stars and polka dots run riot on dresses, rugs and even Grandma's underpants ("as big as tents and as loud as six firecrackers on the Fourth of July"). Such details as Russian nesting dolls, Grandma's "saving jars" and short Russian phrases followed by their English equivalents, contrasting with the contemporary lifestyles of the building residents, heighten the sense of two worlds harmoniously coexisting. Three cheers indeed! Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

"A not-to-be missed borscht-and-blintzes birthday party." --starred, Publishers Weekly "When Grandma insists that she wants no presents for her birthday this year, Sara, her mother, and their neighbors all seek the perfect NO PRESENT." --starred, School Library Journal "In lively, lyrical prose, Best celebrates a special family relationship, and conveys the unique challenges and joys of an immigrant's new life . . . Potter's festive, whimsical artwork is an irresistible play of vibrant colors and patterns, filled with rich detail and diverse, expressive characters." --starred, Booklist

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