Other Stuff Exists

Don't get too comfortable with the familiar–other stuff exists, so go explore!

Posts Tagged ‘Caroline Binch’

Children’s Books, Briefly: 2014-03-20

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 20, 2014

Here are some books for which I’ve only brief notes. Fuller reviews may follow, eventually.

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble

GirlWhoLovedWildHorses-coverWinner of the 1979 Caldecott Medal. I like the art in this; it’s got a pretty unique style. Oddly enough, it reminds me of the art in Meena. The story is okay, but I’d say the art is definitely its strong point.

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

RelativesCame-coverA 1986 Caldecott honor book. Cute story. It’s got no conflict, just a mellow (but amusing) story of relatives from Virginia coming to visit. The art is rendered in colored pencil by Stephen Gammell, whose work I’m more familiar with from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The people share the characteristic ‘lumpiness’ of the illustrations from that book, but there’s nothing horrifying about these. Just lighthearted art in a palette heavy in greens and blues.

Boundless Grace by Mary Hoffman

BoundlessGrace-coverThis is the sequel to Amazing Grace, which I reviewed above (and enjoyed immensely!). I don’t think it’s quite the equal of its predecessor, but it’s still a strong book, telling a story about Grace’s relationship with her father, who has long since divorced her mother and lives in Africa.

Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber

IraSleepsOver-coverNice enough story. Ira’s invited to sleep over at his friend Reggie’s house, but is afraid he’ll be laughed at for sleeping with a teddy bear. It turns out that Reggie sleeps with a teddy bear–and was worried–too. The art is fitting and interesting.

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Amazing Grace

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 11, 2014


I’ll let the book speak for itself:

Grace was a girl who loved stories.

She didn’t mind if they were read to her or told to her or made up in her own head. She didn’t care if they were in books or movies or out of Nana’s long memory. Grace just loved stories.

After she had heard them, and sometimes while they were still going on, Grace would act them out. And she always gave herself the most exciting part.

The story is wonderful and Grace is a kindred spirit to many a reader, each of us a Walter Mitty. She has such personality that one cannot help but become attached to her after only a few pages. When we read that Grace’s class is going to put on Peter Pan and that “Grace knew who she wanted to be,” we can see the conflict coming–Grace’s classmates tell her that she can’t play Peter Pan in the class production of the play because Peter is a boy (and besides, Peter Pan isn’t black)–but Grace’s resoluteness in the face of her classmates’ doubts is admirable.

Grace is strong, but she’s not invulnerable. When she gets home, her Ma and Nana can see that something is wrong, and they reassure Grace. Then, on Saturday, Nana takes Grace out to see a ballet production of Romeo & Juliet, starring Rosalie Wilkins, “from back home in Trinidad,” as Juliet. After this, Grace knows that she can be anything she wants. And when the audition comes for the part of Peter Pan, she proves it–because Grace is amazing.


Binch’s watercolor illustrations are excellent. The backgrounds are mostly simple or nonexistent, but it works well, since the focus is on the people, and the artwork portrays them with a great deal of character. The expressions and body language of the characters add substantial depth to their characterization in the text.

The realistic artwork is very well suited to the similarly realistic story. The poses are lifelike, the colors are vivid, and on the whole the art is pleasing to look at. There’s a nice balance between complete scenes on one or two whole pages and smaller illustrations.

This is a fantastic book. It was a BCCB Blue Ribbon selection and a Horn Book Fanfare selection in 1991 and was featured on Reading Rainbow in 1993. In 1995, Hoffman published a sequel, Boundless Grace, also illustrated by Binch.

Amazing Grace is recommended for grades 1-3.

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