Hi there... This is the first page of the Letter "P" in an alphabetical list of children's books reviewed on ReadThatAgain.com... All these books are also listed by Author in another section of the site.

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Kids Books -- "P" By Title
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"Pablo The Artist"
Written by Satoshi Kitamura
Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura
(Farrar Straus Giroux, 2005)

A pleasantly absurd animal fable about an elephant who has "artist's block," and is unable to come up with inspiration for a painting he's been invited to hang in an upcoming exhibition. Taking a friend's suggestion, he heads for the countryside to try his hand at landscape portraiture, and gets off to a fine start before he takes a lunch break and dozes off on a hillside. Then, several forest animals appear and add their stamps to the unfinished canvas -- a sheep makes the grass greener, a bird makes the sky more blue, etc. -- giving it the richness Pablo was looking for. There's a was-it-all-a-dream twist, when Pablo wakes up and finishes the painting himself... And yet, who should show up at the big art show, but the very same animals he dreamt about? I wasn't wild about this one, but my kid liked it a lot. Nice artwork -- Kitamura has a bold, distinctive style that draws on classical Asian art, as well as a bit of Japanese manga. It's both playful and formal, and lends itself to the level of detail that he adds to the more involved splash pages. Worth checking out. (B+)

"The Paper Princess"
Written by Elisa Kleven
Illustrated by Elisa Kleven
(Dutton, 1994)

Another winner; one of Kleven's best-known and most magical stories. Here, a young girl creates a beautiful paper doll and is trying to figure out how to add the finishing touches when a gust o wind sweeps her creation away. The paper princess embarks on an epic journey, making her way back to the little girl with the help of a sympathetic bluejay and a kind young boy. The story is quite fantastical and fairytail-ish, presenting the paper doll as a living, thinking being that can talk and be understood by others. The happy ending makes this a lovely, self-contained story... You may want to decide whether or not to continue on to the two sequels, in which the paper princess is irrevokably separated from the little girl (and meets a new friend named Lucy...) Perhaps this lovely story by itself would be enough. (A)

"The Paper Princess Finds Her Way"
Written by Elisa Kleven
Illustrated by Elisa Kleven
(Dutton, 2003)

Hmmm. A perhaps-lamentable sequel to Kleven's first Paper Princess book. The original had a magical, fairy-tale quality to it; this volume is a bit clunkier, and more downcast. As you may remember, the first book was a heroic homecoming journey, with the windblown, optimistic paper doll finding her way back to the little girl who made her, after several anxious but uplifting adventures. It's a very complete, full-circle narrative, and probably it would have been best if Kleven had left it there, but instead the Princess character is revived to show us yet again how life's ups and downs can be met with an open heart and a cheerful air. It begins with the girl who created the Princess growing up and forgetting about her -- she drifts away again, and it scooped up by a baby who spills juice on her ("A new color!" the Princess thinks, with characteristic optimism). The baby's father rescues the doll, putting it on a shelve with some other toys the child will be old enough to use someday. Here, we're treated to a passage that reads like pure cant, as the fancy toys and the ones that have batteries or various bells and whistles make fun of the simple, plain paper doll... She flies away again, and is found by a girl who gives her orange wings, and from there is whisked away by a flock of migratory monarch butterflies, who spirit her off, all the way down to Mexico, where she finds yet another nice little girl, and ends up staying with her. I found the writing forced here, and felt that there was just too much stuff being crammed into one book. Plus, the opening passage is just such a bummer, especially if you loved the first book. I suppose it's a parable for how kids grow up, and parents have to let go, etc. Still I wouldn't recommend this title for younger readers: I screened it ahead of time and decided to keep it out of our book queue. I thought the original story was just right. Older readers might get more out of this than I did, though. It's certainly worth taking a peek to see what you think. (C+)

"The Paper Princess Flies Again"
Written by Elisa Kleven
Illustrated by Elisa Kleven
(Tricycle Press, 2005)

Having migrated to Mexico along with the monarch butterflies, the Paper Princess settles down with a girl named Lucy, who loves to hear the Princess's stories and gives her a new companion, a little paper dog, to share her adventures. Eager to find new stories to tell their girl, the two cut-outs hit the road and have a dizzying series of escapades and scary encounters. Riding a red magic carpet, they catch a breeze that takes them over to a grabby little boy... From there, they are chased by a coyote, sail a tumbleweed across the sea, accidentally get stuffed into a pinata, and are finally reunited with Lucy, who had been sulking ever since they disappeared. I thought this volume was more cheerful than The Paper Princess Finds Her Way, but there's also a hurly-burly, kitchen sink quality to the narrative that makes it a bit overwhelming. A ten-year-old who's really into the series might enjoy this, but younger children may find it hard to follow. Still... it's nice to see the Princess enjoying herself! (C+)

"Paris Cat"
Written by Leslie Baker
Illustrated by Leslie Baker
(Little Brown, 1999)

A disappointing followup to Baker's sublime Third Story Cat. Here, without prelude, Alice the calico cat and Annie, her girl, are in Paris, and Annie promptly runs off and gets lost. She tours the town, rambling through the Louvre and various other landmarks, but there's very little rhyme or reason to the story, and it doesn't even echo the first volume very well. Lovely watercolors, though. One funny bit is how the little, lost kitty is terrified by the sight of all the dogs that the Parisians take with them to the cafes and restaurants. If only she'd mentioned all the cigarette smoking as well, it would be quite a travelogue! Anyway, this doesn't add much to the original book -- detracts from its magical feel, actually. I'd say skip this one. (C)

"Part-Time Dog"
Written by Jane Thayer
Illustrated by Lisa McCue
(William Morrow & Co., 1954/2004)

A touching story about a stray dog that "adopts" three different women. The women call the dog catcher, though, and have the pooch hauled off... then instantly regret their decision and rescue the pup from the pound. I have a powerful memory of loving this book as a kid, especially the artwork, which really drew me in. Upon rediscovering it at the local library, I was sorely disappointed to discover that the 1954 version I grew up (pictured here) with is no longer available, and has been replaced by a new, "improved" version, with modernized artwork in place of the old stuff by Thayer's former partner, Seymour Fleishman. What a shame. I looked at the new edition, and there is no doubt in my mind that the old artwork was what made me love the story so much. McCue's style is too detailed and literal; it detracts from the simplicity of the style... and neither the dog nor the ladies who adopt him are nearly as interesting or likable the way they look now. Oh well. I'm going to go track down a copy of the old book now to read to my kid. (Old version: A; new version: C)

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