So thrilled to have my book featured in the Wall Street Journal! Love this line: “[Chloe’s mother] shows how a decent person behaves with someone who has less than almost everything–except imagination.”
The full article follows. “The Rough Patch” sounds like a great picture book, too, doesn’t it?
‘Some day they’ll go down together; / They’ll bury them side by side; / To few it’ll be grief— / To the law a relief— / But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.” Thus read the last stanza of a poem eulogizing the outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, written by the gun moll herself. The poem appeared in a Dallas newspaper on May 23, 1934, the day the couple died in a police ambush in Louisiana. For the previous two years, the lovers and their confederates in the Barrow Gang had lived on the run, robbing banks, stealing cars and killing. For all their depredations, the young, attractive, snappily dressed pair captured the public imagination almost as soon as they started shooting.
Attitudes toward the bandits have fluctuated over the years, but as Karen Blumenthal notes in “Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend” (Viking, 250 pages, $19.99), the public has never ceased “to be fascinated by an otherwise ordinary couple gone rotten.” In this fast-paced nonfiction account for readers ages 12-16, the author explores Clyde’s youthful criminality and radicalization in a Texas prison and Bonnie’s early years as a theatrical, hot-tempered child (and teen bride), and maps the gang’s murderous spree across America. She also follows faltering police efforts to catch them in an era when, as she writes, “crime investigation was still in its infancy.”
Even at the time, the showiness of the criminals overshadowed the men they killed, who included grocers, deliverymen and small-town sheriff’s deputies. “It’s like we don’t even count,” the widow of one victim complained. “Glorifying these killers insults all of us.”
Children’s books are full of imaginary worlds, from Wonderland to Narnia to the Hundred-Acre Wood. In “The Land of Neverendings” (Delacorte, 243 pages, $16.99), 12-year-old Emily uses stories to transport her disabled sister Holly to a place of her own invention, the magical realm of Smockeroon, where the goings-on are “narrated” by Holly’s stuffed bear, Bluey. But, as Kate Saunders writes, “when Holly died, Bluey suddenly fell silent and all the lights went out in Smockeroon.”
Three months later, still bereft, Emily begins writing down bits of Bluey’s old stories. Soon she’s dreaming about the bear and her sister as if their adventures are continuing, and then one night, to her amazement, talking toys from Smockeroon appear in Holly’s empty bedroom. What has happened to the barrier between reality and imagination? And does it mean that Emily could see her sister and Bluey again? Suffused with longing and dappled with humor, this novel from the author of “Five Children on the Western Front” (2016) explores the limits of grief and the lasting power of storytelling.
Grief is the watchword—though it’s never stated—in “The Rough Patch” (Greenwillow, 40 pages, $17.99), a weepy and wonderful picture book by Brian Lies. “Evan and his dog did everything together,” we read as we see, in Mr. Lies’s sharp-focused pictures (see left), a bespectacled fox in overalls enjoying life with his pet: playing ball, eating ice cream and, best of all, working in the garden. “But one day, the unthinkable happened.”
Children ages 4-8 may be able to handle the shadowed illustration of Evan kneeling beside his dead friend, but any dog-loving adult reading this book aloud had better be ready for the waterworks. As Evan’s sorrow turns to rage and then destruction, the reader watches with distress and then with rising hope as the garden, with time, offers the grief-stricken fox a way back to happiness.
Marcy Campbell’s picture book “Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse” (Dial, 40 pages, $17.99) doesn’t yank the heartstrings with quite such a wrench, but it’s affecting all the same. Readers who have loved Eleanor Estes’s 1944 book, “The Hundred Dresses,” will suspect the painful truth behind the horse-owning boasts of a daydreamer named Adrian Simcox. And they will understand the misplaced indignation of the narrator, Chloe, who insists that Adrian must be lying. “He lives in town like me, and I know you can’t have a horse in town,” she tells anyone who will listen. When her mother asks how Chloe can be so sure, the girl explodes: “Because I know! Adrian Simcox does NOT have a horse! Adrian Simcox gets the free lunch at school. His shoes have holes. Kelsey told me her cousin has a horse, and it’s super expensive. He can’t take care of a horse.”
Exasperated by the patience of teachers and other kids, Chloe humiliates Adrian in front of everyone. In Corinna Luyken’s otherwise lush illustrations, that scene is bare and stark. Empathetic readers ages 5-9 will be rooting for Chloe’s mother, who, when she gets wind of developments, marches her daughter into the poorer side of town and shows how a decent person behaves with someone who has less of almost everything—except imagination.