Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When readers of this giddy frontier spoof first meet opera singer Carlotta Carusa, she's bending over an orchestra pit awash with the bucketsful of tears shed by her audience. But the diva pines for a change of scenery from the same old opera houses, so she hops on a stagecoach bound for Deadeye, N.D. There, she blithely ends a drought with an aria from Benjamin Britten's Noah's Flood, converts an outlaw gang to Puccini and rides off into the sunset. Fleming (Gabriella's Song) maintains a deadpan tone and includes plenty of Yosemite Sam-isms like "Ripsnortin' rattlesnakes!" Swaggering villains speak in hard-boiled clichs ("Don't play dumb with me, songbird") as they grimly "face the music" and succumb to Carlotta's perfect pitch. Anticipating nitpickers, the author includes a disclaimer: all three musical selections cited are 20th-century pieces, but how else could Carlotta belt Girl of the Golden West in a showdown? Catrow (She's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head!) heightens the comedy with zany watercolors. Amid the dirty-yellow dust, the stout soprano sports a teensy hat, spotless white gloves and a form-fitting dress striped with violet and raspberry-red. When she sings, her mouth opens like a lion's maw, far-off buttes bounce as if in an earthquake and folks stare in amazement. The snappy dialogue and hyperbolic illustrations enthusiastically satirize and salute the western genre. Ages 3-8. (May)
Children's Literature - Dianne Ochiltree
Can a wonderfully wacky, Wild West adventure teach little varmints about OPERA, too? Darn tootin'! Our heroine, the diva Carlotta Carusa, decides to give up the grand opera house to travel the Wild West with her amazing voice. It's there that Carlotta intends to find adventure, while serenading the cowboys and the buffaloes. But whoa! Snarling wolves, disastrous droughts and that no-good villain Skullneck Sam threaten her stagecoach tour. Carlotta ably shows us how the inspirational power of music, a positive attitude, and a spine-tingling E above high C can turn a bad situation around. The text is clever, the plot lively, and the characters funny. David Catrow's hilarious watercolor renderings add much to the hardcover picture book's appeal.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
The West has never seen real adventure until Carlotta Carusa, the world-famous opera singer appears. Carlotta silences wolves as she trills Prokofiev's symphony, Peter and the Wolf. She ends a drought with an aria from Britten's Noah's Flood. She defeats Skullneck Sam and his band of outlaws with a crescendo blast from Puccini's Girl of the Golden West. Sam's baritone voice pours from him to join her soprano, creating a "divine duet" that brings the town to tears and Sam into the role of sheriff. Silly in concepts and pictures, this musical slapstick introduces terms and pieces in ways that will educate and intrigue.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3--The author of Gabriella's Song (Atheneum, 1997) moves to the American West for another tale about the power of music. This time, the hero is the opera star Carlotta Carusa, who sings "with a voice so melodious that audiences throbbed, sobbed, and swooned from its sheer beauty." When Carlotta heads west, readers learn that her voice has even greater powers. Surrounded by hungry wolves, she sings a passage from Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf and instantly tames the animals. An aria from Britten's Noah's Flood brings a much-needed rainstorm during a drought. The diva even runs off a pack of outlaws by singing Puccini's Girl of the Golden West and converts Skullneck Sam, their leader, into a sheriff with a fine baritone. Catrow's watercolor cartoons complement the humor, nearly to the point of overstatement. Fleming's words are lively and expressive, with a tongue-in-cheek tone, while the illustrations convey silliness and exaggeration in every detail. With bulging eyes, the villainous Skullneck is a Peter Lorre look-alike; Carlotta appears to be all mouth as she belts out her arias; and nearly every background figure, animal and human, has comically grotesque features. Overall, the combination works, squeezing the maximum amount of humor out of a simple concept. An author's note points out in advance that for creative purposes, Carlotta sings 20th-century works in a 19th-century setting.--Steven Engelfried, West Linn Public Library, OR