Theo and his Uncle Gurney are very much alike: they have dreams and they have imagination. While measuring, cutting and sewing at the family tailoring business, Gurney is making plans to move out west. And as he helps with the work, Theo dreams up machines, outlandishcontraptions that spin and whirl within the pages of his sketchbook. In eloquent, image-studded prose ("lilies so large they looked like trumpets with something to say"), Schotter tells a story of dreams coming true, of turning the imaginary into reality, and she manages to make her tale both fantastic and credible. Gurney, with much secrecy, turns Theo's designs into a fairgrounds; the commonsensical members of the family react with delight, thrilled with the opportunity to sew costumes and curtains. Hawkes (The Librarian Who Measured the Earth), working for the first time in oils, contributes rich illustrations that burn with nostalgia, evoking simpler times without sentimentality. The palette moves from burnished darkness to hazy light as family fortunes change, while whimsically chosen perspectives erode the distinctions between the wondrous and the real. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4An uplifting story that stresses the importance of feeding one's soul. Uncle Gurney is a dreamer who's always trying to create something new and different in his family's tailor shop. Theo idolizes his artistic uncle and spends all his free time making drawings of "dream machines" that Gurney is quick to admire; in fact, it is the same inspiration that leads him to create an amusement park in California, where the family starts a new life. Schotter's theme is a strong one, and, in these days of "bottom line" economics, it's heartwarming to read a story that encourages creativity, imagination, and a sense of artistic wonder. The tale is engaging and well structured; the characters are warm and loving, portraying the struggles of a hardworking immigrant family in the early 1900s. Hawkes's full-page oil paintings provide tremendous visual contrasts, featuring dark, forbidding tones for his city scenes and bright, fantasy land hues for "Dreamland." They also show his careful attention to realistic detail. His half-page sketches of Theo's "dream machines" throughout the first half of the text continually reinforce the story's theme. While this title will captivate those who read it independently, the story will fare even better as a read-aloud to introduce classroom units on inventions or fantasy. A great way to inspire creative thinking.Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI
It's the turn of the century, and young Theo sketches whimsical inventions while he's supposed to be working in his family's tailor shop. Uncle Gurney, a soulmate who leaves the clothing business to seek his fortune out West, asks Theo to mail him pictures and explanations of his ideas for fantastic machines. The business falls on hard times, so Gurney sends for Theo's family and happily shows them Dreamland, his amusement park based on the boy's designs. The story isn't quite credible, but it clearly expresses the worth of following a different drummer. In his paintings, full of life and subtle in characterization, Hawkes uses rich, dark colors lit with lighter tones for his evocative scenes, but Theo's fantasy drawings appear in pencil with light tan and yellow washes. An unusual, appealing choice for dreamers who long for a brighter reality.