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'Micawber'    Send a link to a friend

[NOV. 12, 2003]  "Micawber," by John Lithgow, illustrated by C.F. Payne, Simon and Schuster for Young Readers, 35 pages, ages 5 to 8

Review by Louella Moreland

Micawber is a squirrel. Not just any squirrel, mind you, but a talented, art-loving squirrel who just happens to live in New York City and spends every Sunday gazing though the Metropolitan Museum of Art skylight at paintings by Monet and Van Dyck. One day his life is changed forever -- he became a stowaway in a painting supply box of an art student. That night while the student slept, Micawber "discovered the wonders of COLOR!"

The story of this amazing picture book runs the gamut from cute to educational to breathtaking.

Micawber is a delightful, fluffy little character with large eyes and a big smile.

It is not often in a children's story that readers come across the names of master painters or colors named cadmium green, vermilion and ultramarine. Even the most inexperienced will come away from the story with a small appreciation of the visual arts. Adults may use the story to expand the adventure into the study of artistic masters or experiments with color.

However, it is Payne's detailed drawings that bring us back again and again to the pages of this book. They appeal to all our senses, as great children's literature should. As we gaze deeper into them or return for a second or third look, we are drawn further into the scene as we discover a new detail.


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The illustrations fill entire pages, with text pages of white bespeckled with splatters of paint so believable one feels it must still be wet and knobby to the touch. A reader can close his or her eyes and imagine the acidic smell of wet paint filling the air. Details are everywhere: from the straining muscles in a jogger's leg in Central Park to the wood grain of a painter's easel to the individual hairs in Micawber's tail.

The expressions on the characters' faces are the icing on the cake! One of my favorite pages shows Micawber with his tiny hands clasped and a look on his face that shouts, "A-ha! Perfect!" Another page shows him deep in concentration, clutching his rainbow-colored tail, with the tip of his tongue showing in the corner of his mouth. I have seen that look so many times on the faces of children as they "tune in" to their creations and "tune out" all sound from the world around them.

The book is accompanied by a CD recording of the author, John Lithgow, reading the story, but in truth it is not an important component for the storybook. While John's speaking voice is pleasant to listen to, the recording does not pause long enough at each page to absorb the marvelous illustrations, nor does it have a bell sound to alert young readers when to turn pages.

Young readers as well as the adults who read the story aloud will find Micawber a treat to the eyes. To check out this book and other wonderful stories, visit the Lincoln Public Library at 725 Pekin St. or call youth services at 732-5732.

[Louella Moreland, youth services librarian,
 Lincoln Public Library District]

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