From the Publisher
“A not-to-be missed borscht-and-blintzes birthday party.” starred, Publishers Weekly
“When Grandma insists that she wants "no presents" for her birthday this year, Sara, her mother, and their neighbors all seek the perfect NO PRESENT.” starred, School Library Journal
“In lively, lyrical prose, Best celebrates a special family relationship, and conveys the unique challenges and joys of an immigrant's new life . . . Potter's festive, whimsical artwork is an irresistible play of vibrant colors and patterns, filled with rich detail and diverse, expressive characters.” starred, Booklist
"Three cheers indeed!," said PW in a starred review of this tale of Grandma Catherine's party, to which all the tenants of Sara's apartment building have been invited, with one caveat: that there be no presents. Sarah decides to study Grandma so she can think up the perfect "no present." Ages 4-8. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Best (Last Licks) and Potter (When Agnes Caws) join their considerable talents for a not-to-be-missed borscht-and-blintzes birthday party for a hardworking Russian grandmother. The tenants in Sara's apartment building have all been invited to Grandma Catherine's party, and Grandma has insisted there be no presents. Sara (along with the neighbors) decides to study Grandma so she can think up the perfect "no present." Over the course of the week, Grandma plays a Russian clapping song to quiet Mary Caruso's baby, Mimmo; bakes a sardine pie for Mr. Minsky's cat; and listens as Sara recites her poems. Best's folksy tale is freckled with offbeat imagery (an "alphabet moon" describes a C-shaped crescent) and appealing human and animal characters. Potter's delectably skewed watercolors extend the intimacy of Best's narrative and capture the tender bond between Sara and Grandma. Patterns of flowers and stripes, stars and polka dots run riot on dresses, rugs and even Grandma's underpants ("as big as tents and as loud as six firecrackers on the Fourth of July"). Such details as Russian nesting dolls, Grandma's "saving jars" and short Russian phrases followed by their English equivalents, contrasting with the contemporary lifestyles of the building residents, heighten the sense of two worlds harmoniously coexisting. Three cheers indeed! Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Susan Hepler
In this warm family story, Sara's Russian grandmother has requested no presents for her birthday ("as old as all the numbers on the clock added together") so Sara and the other people in her apartment building must think of a perfect gift from the heart. Grandmother is a cheerful worker shown working, hanging out her enormous underwear on the line, shopping, baking for the family but remembering the cat and dog as well, playing with Sara, and reading her Russian newspapers and books. She understands English but reads and writes only Russian. Suddenly, Sara knows what her gift will be--to teach her to read and write English. Much to the relief of everyone, Grandma agrees that perhaps now she is ready to learn. Watercolors portray the people in cheerful folkart style, beaky noses, tiny heads, patterned dresses and calm backgrounds that perfectly suit this family and neighborhood love story. As Sara begins to teach Grandma, she teaches Russian back--and both agree that sometimes no presents can be the best presents. Parents and teachers will welcome the anti-materialism message while children will wish they had such a cool grandmother and a neat apartment house like Sara's.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-Sara narrates this story about her grandmother, who came to the U.S. from Russia many years ago and is nicknamed Catherine the Great. When Grandma insists that she wants "no presents" for her birthday this year, Sara, her mother, and their neighbors all seek the perfect NO PRESENT. On the night of the party, Mary Caruso sings a love song in Russian, Mr. Minsky shares a waltz with Grandma, Mama presents her with their "coming-to-America picture" in a frame, and-best of all-Sara promises to teach her to read and write in English. Potter goes into as much detail in her watercolor illustrations as Best suggests in her text, with humorous spot and full-page paintings in warm tones that capture the celebratory mood of the story. When Grandma speaks in Russian, there's no pronunciation guidance for the Cyrillic text so those who want to read this aloud will need to do a little extra research; however, a note from the author explains that she wanted to "give a sense of the difference between Catherine's language and Sara's." Because of the pacing of the narrative and the detail in the pictures, this long picture book begs to be taken slowly; readers will be rewarded with an endearing portrayal of a family, a neighborhood, and a "Great" person.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Best (Last Licks, p. 297, etc.) offers a perfectly delightful celebration of a really great grandmother. In "the early blue of Grandma's birthday morning," as her mama wakes her and goes off to work, Sara hears all her neighbors going about their daily routine. Her Russian grandmother, whom Sara calls Catherine the Great, listens to Sara's poems, comforts the neighbor's baby by playing the Russian version of patty-cake, and cooks up a storm in preparation for her own birthday. She has mandated that there be "no presents!" but the neighbors and Sara's mother know what to do; at the borscht-and-blintzes party, Mary Caruso sings Catherine's favorite song, Mr. Minsky dances with her, one father, a hairdresser, does her hair, and Sara's mother finds the picture of Catherine coming from Russia on a "big boat with a little suitcase." Sara's "no present" is a poem in English and an offer to teach her grandmother more. Joined here is lively language with exuberant pictures, showing, for example, the three floors of Sara's building in cutaway, or a double-page close-up filled with the food on and company around Sara's kitchen table. (Picture book. 4-8)