Archive for January 2nd, 2018

by Sam Juliano

What ultimately foiled Big Anthony in Tomie di Paola’s classic Caldecott Honor book Strega Nona was his failure to notice the story’s benevolent witch blowing three kisses after a magical recitation aimed at ceasing the production of pasta in her magic pot.  The same basic measure of smug overconfidence initially impedes a determined young girl aiming to solve the “forms” in martial arts without the vital tutelage of an experienced teacher.  Unlike the inveterate boaster in the medieval story set in Italy, a young girl stays the proverbial course in a contemporary setting, where mastery follows a baptism under fire.  The unidentified central protagonist in Barbara McClintock’s exquisite The Five Forms needs to thoroughly experience the power of mystical forces before committed will power can harness and humanize undisciplined temperament in achieving consummate success in the martial arts.

After opening end papers featuring mammals who later come alive in the narrative and some attractive brown and beige matching calligraphy, the frontispiece spotlights a young pony-tailed girl wearing a pink coat, one whom in the Barbara McClintock universe affectionately recalls Maria from the charming domestic drama Where’s Mommy?   Armed only with a knapsack and an inquisitive spirit she spots what appears to be a thick, loose-leaf holed scrapbook sitting on top of a blue tin book-drop outside a library.  Young readers previously exposed to Bill Thomson’s wildly popular 2010 wordless picture book Chalk, and the opening scenes of three children on a rainy day finding a bag of colored chalk hanging on the teeth of a toy dinosaur in a playground, may suspect there is magic in the air again, even if the ground rules this time clearing state that this mysterious portfolio can only enter a “good home.”  Taking the bait out intrepid protagonist, having hung up her coat, taken off her boots and laid down her knapsack is busy investigating her surprising find in a room where cuddly stuffed animals, doll house and a jack-in-the-box sit lifelike aside two shelves of books.  McClintock suddenly intrudes with the book’s title, which is the same as this 2017 release, and the challenge has officially been taken and accepted. (more…)

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