Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Run, run, as fast as you canhere comes the Gingerbread Man on steroids! Ginsburg's rambunctious adaptation of a Russian folktale introduces a little clay fellow who is fashioned by a lonely elderly couple, comes to life and starts wreaking havoc. "I am here! I am hungry!" the clay boy announces, and begins to devour everything in sight, including Grandma and Grandpa and their livestock. "More! I want more!" he cries, growing (as graduated type sizes demonstrate) "bigger, and bigger, and bigger," until he's a giant, gulping down everything and everyone he meets. Finally, he's routed by a clever goat, who shatters the clay boy, releasing unharmed all those he's swallowed. It's an exuberant, larger-than-life tale, and Ginsburg (The King Who Tried to Fry an Egg on His Head) tells it with gusto, energizing her assured prose with the well-placed repetition ("thump, thump, thump" go the big clay feet) that makes for a prime read-aloud. Smith's (Runnery Granary) paintings play up the story's ethnic roots with tidy, thatched-roof cottages and cheerful peasants, the women in babushkas, the men in flowing beards and Cossack shirts. His vision of the clay boy is deliciously creepy, toothe amorphous, omnivorous figure looks not unlike a plumped-up Boo Radleyand will no doubt deliver a mild dose of the shivers to delighted young audiences. Ages 5-up. (May)
Children's Literature - Donna Freedman
This is a Russian version of "The Gingerbread Man." A lonely older couple creates a little child to love, and the child runs amok. As he grows bigger and greedier, the clay boy eats every animal and person in his path, including the people who made him. Luckily, a brave little goat is smart enough to butt the clay boy in the stomach, whereby he breaks up into many pieces thereby freeing the people and animals trapped inside. Some children might be disturbed by the cute little clay boy on the cover, who turns mean and eventually is destroyed.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2A retelling of a traditional Russian folktale. An older couple whose children have grown and gone away yearn for the company of a child. Grandpa fashions a boy out of a piece of clay, and as the boy dries out by the fire, Clay Boy comes to life saying, "I am here! I am hungry!" The two old peasants feed him all they have and watch him in astonishment as he quickly grows to gargantuan proportions. But Clay Boy's appetite cannot be satisfied so he goes outside and eats the chickens, geese, cat, dog, then Grandma and Grandpa (yikes!), and all the other inhabitants of this rural Old World village. The last living being is a little white goat who saves the day by destroying Clay Boy and rescuing all held captive within him. Children will be engaged by the fast pace of events and simplicity of character and outcome. However, the visual interpretation of this tale is potentially frightening. While Smith's watercolors masterfully portray all of the characters and scenes, his rendition of the boy made of clay is at times so grotesquely distorted that it could cause nightmares.Amelia Kalin, Valley Cottage Library, NY
Ginsburg (The Old Man and His Birds, 1994, etc.) borrows freely from Russian folklore to create her own version of the tale of the ravenous clay boy.
When Grandpa molds a little boy out of clay and dries him by the fire, he doesn't count on the boy having a will, or an appetite, all his own. The clay boy gobbles down all the food in the house, topping it all off with the farm animals and then Grandma and Grandpa. The monstrous child sets off down the road, eating everyone he meets and growing to gargantuan proportions. The clay giant seems unstoppable, until a clever goat butts him in the belly with his horns, smashing the boy like a flower pot, and rescuing all the people and creatures he's devoured. Ginsburg's tale stimulates a child's level of fear and excitement perfectly, and Smith's lumpy, opaque paintings of the clay boy are grand. Fans of the gingerbread boy and Jack Kent's retelling of Fat Cat (1971) will relish this hungry clay Frankenstein and his shattering comeuppance.