When the stove goes out, young Daniel is sent to the neighbor's to get hot coals. The night is dark and foggy and Daniel is in a hurry to return home. As he runs through the woods, he stumbles, struggles to break free and discovers he has become a fleet-footed, silver-tailed fox. Later, he trips again and is transformed into a silent bobcat. Before he reaches home, however, Daniel meets a huge black grizzly bearand in place of his cat's paws are his own leather boots and mittened hands. He drops the coals on the ground and begins to shake. But once again, Daniel finds himself transformed, this time into a soaring eagle. Pittman weaves together fantasy and realism in a powerful story about conquering fear. The dramatic watercolor illustrations and Rand's flawless handling of the transformations adds vibrancy and a sense of urgency to all of Daniel's varied adventures. Ages 5-8. (September)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4 An eerie and mysterious adventure that is sure to be popular. When Grandpa Daniel was young, he tells his grandchild, his mother sent him to borrow some coals. His fear and courage in crossing the dark, dark wood is an old theme which this wonderful book makes accessible to contemporary young readers. The young Daniel acts out similes of bravery as he makes his way. Branches entrap him, slowing his progress, but he suddenly breaks free to move easily over the ground like a swift fox. Coming home he twists like a bobcat to free himself from a gnarled tree root and becomes the powerful big cat. Are these shape-shiftings real or metaphorical? The artist's strong paintings show the changes in stop motion and in dramatic wordless double pages, the animal stretching and springing forward. The light of Daniel's firebox contrasts dramatically with the rain-soaked dark. Readers and listeners are sure to find these detailed nature pictures fascinating. The text has been carefully placed within the pictures, resulting in an unusual unity that works to give the story a meaning on several levels. Fans of Yolen and Schoenherr's Owl Moon (Philomel, 1987) will like this, as will those at the upper end of the picture book age and a little beyond. Anna Biagioni Hart, Sherwood Regional Library, Alexandria, Va.