of the Center for Children's Books:
Each month we offer a focus on a particular author or artist. Sometimes we use this space to discuss a rising new talent or an established star, but we also like to celebrate those who now live on only in the rich legacy of their books. See the archive for focus pieces from previous months.
Stephanie Greene may be best known for her Owen Foote books, and it's appropriate that she be recognized for that quality series of short novels sparkling with personality and wit. Protagonist Owen gets himself into (and out of) all kinds of trouble while working his way through a range of genuinely demanding but not overdone personal issues. From dealing with humiliation over his small stature in Owen Foote, Second Grade Strongman (BCCB 3/96), to struggling with the cutthroat competition of the third grade science fair in the latest installment, Owen Foote, Mighty Scientist (BCCB 10/04), Owen gives readers a genuinely likeable companion for the middle elementary years.
However, the talented Ms. Greene has more to offer readers than one solid series, no matter how fine. So far this year, two non-Owen books for young readers have further shown off their author's gift for narrative craft. The first, Queen Sophie Hartley (BCCB 4/05), presents an ordinary girl whose efforts in ballet fall flat, and whose labors thereafter to develop a talent for kindness seem destined—well, if not for failure, definitely for an uphill climb. Here, Greene's skill at creating appealing characters and compactly interwoven plots makes this new offering shine.
The second of this year's books is a repackaging of a formerly published text, aimed at a younger audience than the Owen Foote series or Queen Sophie. As Not Just Another Moose , the tale of Moose's first fall, winter, and spring without his antlers glinted with sly humor; newly issued as an easy reader (the first in a series) and partnered with charismatic illustrations by Joe Mathieu, the text—now titled Moose's Big Idea (BCCB 5/05)—emerges as a tightly written, winningly tongue-in-cheek book of very brief chapters, just right for newly independent readers. This story deserves a second chance to find its niche . . . and open the way for sequels galore.
In all Greene's books, the writing is crisp, the characters endearing, and the dilemmas engaging. Readers moving from picture books to full-length novels can rely on Greene's clever plotting and sympathetic perspective to provide stories that take their transitional audience seriously—but not too seriously to have some good, clean fun.
--Timnah Card, Reviewer
Moose's Big Idea; illus. Joe Mathieu. Marshall Cavendish, 2005. (BCCB 5/05)
Not Just Another Moose; illus. by Andrea Wallace. Marshall Cavendish, 2000.
Owen Foote, Second Grade Strongman; illus. by Dee deRosa. Clarion, 1996. (BCCB 3/96)
Owen Foote, Mighty Scientist; illus. by Cat Bowman Smith. Clarion, 2004. (BCCB 10/04)
Queen Sophie Hartley. Clarion, 2005. (BCCB 4/05)