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YA Lit Reviews
International Multicultural Lit

Fox, Mem Ill. by Marla Frazee.  Harriet You'll Drive Me Wild. San Diego: Harcourt. 2000.


For Ages: 4-8. ISBN: 0152045988

Mem Fox, a childrens writer living in New Zealand has written a simple tale for the very young about a mother child relationship sure to strike a cord in everyone. This story tells us what happens to one mother and child trying to live together in a house that makes up their world.

It raises serious questions about parenting, particularly when handling an accident-prone child who doesnt mean to cause messes, or create chaos wherever they go, but they do. The child Harriet makes a series of messes, each one a little bigger than the next, until the messes go beyond the limit of her mothers patience. This story set entirely in the house that makes up their world, tells us what happens to one mother and child  caught up in this situation.


As a writer Fox makes an interesting use of generally vague words in such statements as "she just was,"  and "just like that," repeatedly throughout the story clear up until the climax and Harriet's biggest mess of the day. The story at this point is interestingly broken up for good effect. There  are two single sentence pages after mom sees the mess, then Mom loses it and begins to yell and yell and yell.  The pause between the two character's actions works well within the story. While Fox writes many stories that preseent other cultures, this story, though it might take place outside of the U.S. is of a more universal nature. There are very few cultural identifiers within the story.


This book is Illustrated by Marla Frazee, who has illustrated many childrens books. In this book her illustrations tell Fox's story in pictures. She manages to highlight each of Harriet's messes and her work adds much to the visualization of the tale.   Beginning with the title page Frazee introduces Harriet's mother at breakfast. With the exception of the first and last page each two-page spread includes one page of text and one page illustrated. Each two-page spread alternates which side is text and which is the picture.


Each picture has a white space border around it. No picture takes up the entire page, and each illustration mirrors the text beside it, from Harriets spilled juice at breakfast to splattered jam dripping down the body of her pet dog; to the final big mess.


While Harriet's mom loses it for a moment, Harriet knows that even though her mommy is angry, she still loves Harriet very much. They just are happy in their life together---and they just love each other that way.

Foxs Home Page. On this page is a great guide to writing that talks about writing for children. A link to check out for those interested in writing, reading, and childrens literature.

Fox: on literacy and reading to children.

Includes a biographical sketch of Fox


Harriet Book Reviews

kids reviews including reviews from

Reviews by Diana and Sarah (age 7)



Todd Alexander and Mem Fox.




Funke, Cornelia. The Thief Lord.  New York. Chicken House/Scholastic. 2002.


For Ages: 9 and older. ISBN: 0439404371

This story about orphans banding together takes place in Venice. The children brought together by a mysterious young man calling himself the Thief Lord have been staying in a closed up movie theatre. They must figure out how to live in the world, how to deal with unscrupulous businessmen (the only people who will bother to give them the time of day), making sure they have food and shelter, taking in strays of their own, and then finding out that their thief lord is not who he seems to be.


In addition to the reality of the situation, Funk adds a touch of Magic and mystery that connects the childrens life stories together. Two young orphaned runaways are the catalysts for all the action as it occurs. The boys, Prosper and Bo run away from their aunt and uncle because the two boys want to stay together. Their relatives really want only one child, so the two boys conspire to run away. They choose Venice because of the stories told to them by their mother.  They boys are chased by a private investigator, get caught up in an old mystery, and learn the truth about their savior Scipio (the Thief Lord).


This book may be able to satisfy the many fantasies of young adults, from the families that spring up around them, and the stories and worlds those people bring together, to fantasies like living inside a movie theater. The magic in the story is also a connection between young and old, past and present in the experiences of the thief lord, the child who becomes adult; and the unscrupulous businessman Barbarossa who becomes a child ultimately adopted by Prosper and Bo's Relatives. There are happy endings to good characters in the story,  and a cosmic justice kind of ending for the bad characters. Each seems to get what they deserve for their ending.




Review by Jim Loy.

Review by Carrie Kraft



Interview by Trudy Wyss




Nye, Naomi Shihab. The Same Sky: A Collection of Poems From Around The World.  Aladdin. 1996.


For Ages: 9-12. ISBN: 0689806302

Naomi Shihab Nye has selected poems from around the world that present different views of the world that are all located beneath The Same Sky. While the poetry is vastly different, each poem represents many of the same heart-felt/soul felt reactions to living that we all share. Different experiences and situations are shown on the surface, but there are similar feelings and reactions that we all share.  These poems go a long  way to show that.

Nye has chosen poetry that reflect very specific themes: Words and Silences, Dreams and Dreamers, Families, This Earth and Sky in which we live (the world), Losses, and Human Mysteries.  Each section is divided so that it begins with its own title page. That title page includes an illustration done by Deborah Maverick Kelley based on a cover design by Christy Hale. Kelley has taken Hales cover designs and created small illustrations.


Added materials at the end of this book are both helpful and informative. There is a section of brief biographical info on each author, and it is interesting to find out that many authors are activists as well as writers, and support many causes that they hope will lead to world peace.

The end sections also include a map of the world showing where the poets come from; Suggested readings for those who may want to explore the works of more international poets, and Indexes coving the countries involved and the poets involved. In an introduction Nye tells us that she chose not to include well known International writers and U. S writers, simply because U. S. writers tend to have more opportunities to publish than many other International poets.

Voices From The Gap: Biography and information including more links.

Nye: Letter to would-be terrorists.

Brief Biography with a focus on her poetry.

Interview with Nye.


Review from Library School Journal



Grade 9-12-- In the preface, Nye says, ``. . . what lovely, larger life becomes ours when we listen to one another?'' This question states the purpose of this anthology that emphasizes selections from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, India, and South and Central America. They are indexed by country as well as by poet. This is a lengthy collection, close to 200 pages long, brimming with much lovely material. The poems are about many things: the nature of poetry (and language itself), the beauty of the natural world, how feelings about childhood are colored by memory, the love of parent for a child (and vice versa). Some are more political in subject matter. Determining the audience is problematic. The preface states that the poems have been especially chosen for young people, but many of them will be of marginal interest to them, and several require an adult perspective to be appreciated. The book may be useful, but it will have to be introduced by a sensitive adult (preferably a very talented teacher who can lead students to draw connections that may seem unlikely at first). For senior high and public libraries where multicultural material is a priority. --Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.



Mahy, Margaret. Ill. By Sarah Garland. Dashing Dog.  Greenwillow.  2002.


For Ages 4-8. ISBN: 0060004568 

Margaret Mahy's Dashing Dog is a simple and quite joyful story in rhyme that makes great use of consonance in her short poetic phrases.  Her use of consonants D D and C C work well with this poem / story. She makes up rhyming phrases like floundery / drowndery, and sandified / dapper and dandified, glorious, gallant, and grandified;  that serve to add to the wit and light-heartedness of the story. This tale about a dashing dogs day out with the family leads to many misadventures. Some include: a run-in with sea gulls who get the best of him; a game of Frisbee ending in a multiple dog chase; treeing a cat but falling into a briar rose bush. But when the family baby (Betty) walks off the end of the jetty (pier), its Dashing Dog to the rescue. He is seen jumping into the water, grabbing the baby by her clothes and carrying her to the safety of her family who all jump into the water to try to reach Betty. Dashing Dog's day out ends with him happy healthy and soaked to the gills, but very much loved by his family.


Sarah Garland, a writer and Illustrator of over forty books does the illustrations for this story. On the title page is a cameo like round framed illustration of Dashing Dog. Each illustration is tailored to fit the actions of the story, from the opening of the story in a Doggie beauty parlor to the many adventures at the beach. Garland shows Dashing dog from pampered pup to bedraggled hero in realistic scenes, adding a visual depth to the richness of  Mahy's words. Like Mem Fox, Mahy has other works with more cultural clues, but in this fairly universal story she uses poetic language that might not immediately occur to white European / U. S.  writers.

Bio of Margaret Mahy

About Margaret Mahy. Also on this page are links to more about Mahy including awards she has been given over the years.-

A brief bio of Sarah Garland, Writer and illustrator.

Amazons reviews for Dashing Dog provided by School Library Journal and Booklist.

Very brief review of Dashing Dog.