Reviews for Great Joy

Booklist Reviews 2007 October #2
*Starred Review* On a busy corner, a week before Christmas, an organ grinder and his monkey appear. Up in her apartment, Frances notices them, and she asks her mother, "Where do they go at night?" Her harried mother, busy hemming Frances' nightgown to use as an angel costume for the Christmas pageant, has no time for questions, so Frances stays up until midnight to find the answer. When she sees the two still outside, she realizes they have no home. The night of the pageant, she asks the organ grinder to come to the church, even as her mother hurries her along. During the performance Frances hesitates to say her one line. Not until shes sees the man and monkey enter is she able to proclaim, "I bring you tidings of Great Joy!" And then, "because the words felt so right," she repeats more quietly, "Great Joy." The story, though moving, is slight, but Ibatoulline's evocative artwork moves it to a higher level. The setting is the 1940s, and the art captures the time beautifully. It's not just the clothes and cars (Mom has a marked resemblance to Maureen O'Hara); it's the feeling of the era-- particularly, the isolation a city can provoke. Happily, the final two-page spread, bathed in a golden hue and packed with people, shows the inclusion a holiday can bring. Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 November #1
Newbery Medalist DiCamillo is joined again by the illustrator of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (2005) in this moving story that offers the reader (or young listener) a treat: a story with an outwardly simple plot but with an inner core of meaning that is deeply satisfying. The main character, Frances, is a little girl who lives in a city apartment with her mother in the 1940s. From their second-story window, Frances watches an older man standing on the corner with an organ grinder and a little monkey in a red cap. In a series of tiny actions that all add up to something larger, she draws the lonely man into her world, and by the final, wordless spread, a stranger has come in out of the cold to join the group. DiCamillo tells her story with a light, deft hand and a minimum of words that make the story all the more powerful. Ibatoulline's mysterious paintings are understated as well, filled with subtle, glowing accents from streetlights, shop windows and stage lights when Frances performs her role as an angel in her church pageant. This simple but powerful story will indeed bring the reader great joy. (Picture book. 4-8) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 October #4

With spot-on storytelling rhythms and pacing, Newbery Medalist DiCamillo spins a tale of compassion and holiday warmth from a most unlikely image. Frances is so preoccupied by the hard-luck organ grinder and monkey she can see from her apartment window that it's hard to focus on the fast-approaching church Christmas pageant. It's not until the man and monkey make their way to the performance (at Frances's invitation) that her words, "Behold! I bring you tidings of great joy," make perfect sense to her. Ibatoulline's (The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane ) WWII-era scenes have a subdued yet comforting glow, illuminated by streetlamps and stage lights. Ages 4-8. (Nov.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2007 October

K-Gr 2 -Frances worries about the organ grinder and his monkey who stand across from her apartment all day, in all kinds of bad weather, and even sleep outside. On the day she is to perform in a Christmas play at her church, she impulsively invites him to come; it is only when he finally makes his appearance that she can call out her one line, "Behold! I bring you tidings of Great Joy!" The plotline is simplicity itself, and the text lacks any sentimentality or fluff, allowing the acrylic paintings, reminiscent of Norman Rockwell's work in their warmth and realism, to enrich and expand the story. Although no mention of a time period is made in the text, the clothing, the cars, and a portrait of a young man in uniform in Frances's apartment make clear that this is America during World War II. The organ grinder is entirely isolated on his street corner, despite being surrounded by Christmas bustle; it is Frances who shines a light on him and makes the tiny but vital gesture necessary to draw him into the life and light of the community. The last spread, unaccompanied by text, depicts the aftermath of the play, young actors and doting relatives and the monkey mingling and eating refreshments, while the organ grinder chats with Frances's mom. His troubles aren't over, perhaps, but for the moment, there is warmth, hope, and even great joy.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library

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