Anna, the protagonist of this tender period piece, sees her father's bookbinding business slipping away, as customers choose the speedy delivery of the big, new binderies (which use glue) over the quality of her father's carefully hand-sewn books. When Anna's mother goes into labor shortly before an important customer's job is due, the girl surprises her father by re-stitching the books herself-immaculately. Cheng (Marika) establishes ambience and key relationships in just a few opening lines: "My papa smells like paper and leather and glue. When I sit on his lap at night I find paper snippets in his hair. He lets me peel the dry glue from his fingertips." The author tidily binds together plot and subplot: from the leather scraps Anna collects as her father binds a collection of Aesop's fables, the girl crafts a picture of the tortoise and hare, and the moral exemplifies the painstaking quality of their bookmaking. Readers hoping for a close-up look at Anna's work may be frustrated, however. While black-and-white sketches on the endpapers give a general sense of various steps in the process, Rand's realistic watercolors favor a more impressionistic approach. His compositions feel almost cinematic, capturing small moments-the father touching Anna's hair or his plaintive gesture to a churlish customer-that indeed speak volumes. Ages 5-9. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Anna, a serious young girl, learns the craft of book making from her father. She is upset that Papa is losing business to the larger binderies that are faster; however they use glue, which is not as long lasting as the painstaking process of hand stitching her Papa uses. When a wealthy customer demands that the repair of his books be finished in three days, or he will take his business elsewhere, Anna proves her self worthy of carrying on the tradition. She completes the task while her father assists with the birth of her baby brother. Anna is proud of her father's reaction, and is also thrilled to have her own collection of Aesop he has sewn just for her and the new baby. "Slow and steady wins the race" is an appropriate subplot—it reflects the care Anna takes with sewing the book, the quality of Papa's craftsmanship, as well as the lateness of the baby. This is a warmhearted story about family, commitment, and respect for a craft. The rich watercolors are evocative of a time gone by. Handsome black-and-white end papers give a sense of the intricate handiwork that goes into the hand sewing of a book. The story ends with an illustration of Anna intently reading her very own copy of Aesop, leaving the reader with a strong sense of a passionate love of books. 2003, Walker & Company, Nevett
K-Gr 3-Anna, the young narrator of this quiet picture book, loves to help her father in his bookbindery. She shares his concern that customers are using cheaper, large-volume operations that glue bindings rather than carefully stitching them by hand. When a special rush job needs stitching just as Anna's mother goes into labor, the girl decides to do the work herself. Her father is surprised and delighted to find the job done and done well when he comes to tell her of her new brother's birth. Rand's luminous watercolor illustrations of an early-1900s home and business beautifully re-create the era, and his characterization is exact. Papa is the essence of a worried, hardworking, but caring father. Longhaired Anna, with her wire-rimmed glasses and blue pinafore dress, is the picture of Edwardian girlhood. Their motivations are clearly delineated, and it is easy to believe that this serious and determined child could have completed the difficult task on her own.-Louise L. Sherman, formerly at Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Cheng's (Marika, 2002, etc.) warm tale of a 19th-century bookbinder's daughter, who courageously tackles an important commission when her father is suddenly called away, gets serene, dignified illustrations from the veteran Rand (Country Kid, City Kid, 2002, etc.). The shop's biggest customer has threatened to take his business to the industrial binder if Papa can't finish repairing a leather-bound set in three days-and it looks like he's going to miss that deadline when Mama goes into labor. So Anna, who has been haunting the binder's studio for years, carefully waxes a length of string and sets to work. Though what exactly Anna does is not accurately illustrated or well-described, Rand does depict some of a binder's equipment, and his focus on Anna's intent face and capable hands brings out the painstaking care she takes in the work. In the end, Anna has not only her weary father's approval, but a new baby brother and a beautifully bound volume of Aesop's fables for her very own. The author weaves in references to "The Tortoise and the Hare" to point up differences between work done by hand and by quicker but less reliable machines-a theme that is still relevant, and adds resonance to this intimate family episode. (Picture book. 7-9)