Fancy That

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In sonorous prose, Hershenhorn (Chicken Soup by Heart) spins a historical story about a young "limner" (a traveling portrait painter). Newly orphaned in 1841, Pippin Biddle leaves his three younger sisters at the local almshouse and aims to buy the family's independence by selling paintings like their late father did. But his portraits lack tact, and Lloyd's (Too Many Pumpkins) humorous paintings-within-paintings show why they fail; Pip truthfully includes in his portrait the big ears, bumpy noses and foul tempers of Pennsylvania's citizens. "Was he blind as a bat, they asked, to render such likenesses? How could he not see a fine and handsome face?" Hershenhorn stays loyal to 19th-century American diction, with disarming results: Pip's signboard reads, "Correct likenesses taken with elegance and dispatch." Lloyd has mastered the egg tempera medium, which may have been used by limners, and her work alternates between the checkerboard orchards and tranquil cattle of American folk art and a more comical style used for Pip's encounters with his customers. Cottony white tones serve beautifully for the clouds that accompany Pip on his journey and for the driving snow that greets him as he returns, just in time for Christmas. Pip doesn't get to be the hero of his own story his sisters, not he, save the family from indigence but Hershenhorn and Lloyd's collaboration is an unqualified success. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Without warning, Pippin Biddle and his three sisters are orphaned. Pippin does the only thing that he can do—he plans to travel from village to village, painting people's portraits just as his father did. He packs the wagon with his father's paints, easel and signboard and kisses his sweet sisters good-bye. "Be brave!" he tells them and promises that he will earn the family's keep and by Christmas they will have their own home. Pippin proves to be quite a talented portrait painter. (After all he's had lots of practice painting his dog, Biscuit.) But his realistic portrayals of big-eared children, scowling grandmothers, bawling babies and the portly barrel maker are not appreciated by the subjects. Again and again, men, women and children huff their displeasure at his finished portraits and poor Pippin must move on. Inspired pen, ink and egg tempera illustrations perfectly capture the changing seasons as Pippin travels throughout the countryside and struggles to earn his family's keep. What a delightful surprise when the disheartened and empty-handed Pippin returns to find his sisters happily settled in their own small cabin and earning their keep "for all these seasons his three sisters had been working, and weaving, with leaves and such, Christmas wreaths to sell." Fancy that! A wonderful book for adults and children to share and a book that subtly gives the readers many opportunities to discuss art, vanity, family responsibility and the role of gender in earning a family's keep. 2003, Holiday House, Ages 6 to 9.
— Anita Barnes Lowen
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-In 1841, orphaned Pip tries to earn a living as a limner, or itinerant painter, in order to keep his three sisters from the poorhouse. As he and his dog wander through the Pennsylvania countryside, the boy offers to paint portraits of family members, pets, and shopkeepers. As the year goes by, he continues to send messages to his sisters, promising that they will have their own home by Christmas. However, the folksy realism of his portraits captures every fault and blemish of his subjects and doesn't bring in much business and he returns home without money. When he is finally reunited with his sisters, he is astonished to find that they have spent the time making crafts and wreaths and opened a shop that will keep the family self-sufficient and together. The little-known craft of the limner is an intriguing bit of history. Hershenhorn tells an interesting tale but the narrative is somewhat stilted and episodic. Lloyd's illustrations take two forms; Pip's story is told with simple lines and colors in stylized sketches nicely balanced with the text while the passing seasons are portrayed in beautifully detailed egg tempera landscapes glowing with color and charm. An artist's note explains the complicated process of how they were done. While this is not a first purchase, it would be fine supplemental material for history units as well as art classes. Fascinating but limited.-Beth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Using made-from-scratch egg tempera for authenticity, Lloyd alternates expertly done American folk-art-style portraits with more finely detailed, richly colored landscapes for this tale of an orphaned 19th-century lad who takes to the road with his father’s art supplies, promising his three sisters that he’ll be back by Christmas with money for a new home. Confidence turns to despair, however, as portrait after portrait, each depicting ill-favored adults and cranky children with devastating accuracy, is indignantly rejected by prospective customers. Observant viewers will cotton to what’s going on, but the clueless, overly honest lad never does. Discouraged and penniless, he returns for Christmas--to find his sisters not in the alms-house as expected, but waiting for him in a snug cabin paid for by the holiday wreaths they’ve been industriously weaving in his absence. Told with engagingly rhythmic language and the repeating structure of a folktale, this tongue-in-cheek piece of Americana will delight a wide range of readers and listeners. (author’s note, illustrator note) (Picture book. 6-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823416059
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2003
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 650L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.78 (w) x 11.34 (h) x 0.41 (d)

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