Stephen Michael King has always drawn pictures. At primary school he was a misfit - quiet, solitary, escaping into the world of his imagination, isolated by a hearing problem that went undiagnosed for many years. Now he has found his place as a popular picture-book illustrator, with books translated into many languages.
Featuring a small gaggle of eccentric characters, this Australian picture book offers large giggles over its breezy watercolor illustrations of loopy, Seussian contraptions. "Milli could take a thing that was a nothing... and make it... a something!" Never brave enough to show her ingenious creations to other people, Milli resigns herself to making plain brown shoes in her shoe shop. Then one day she meets two wandering minstrels, Jack and Cat, who show her how to abandon her inner censor and dance. Not only do they teach her the two-step, but the three of them do "the tricky twisting backward-sliding four-step," and King's (Emily Loves to Bounce) lighthearted interior and jacket illustrations feature them cheerfully dancing in sunshine and rain with the style and verve associated with a 1950s musical. Dancing makes Milli "feel brave and free" enough to show her marvelous inventions to the world. King takes a flight of fancy with his visual depictions of what Milli invents, such as the crazy tuba-like instrument she fashions out of a telephone, lead pipes and a huge plastic flower, or the amazing cart she devises for Jack and Cat. Milli is initially worried about how the townsfolk will react to her art, but her fears, fortunately, prove unfounded. The barely disguised self-help theme doesn't dent this book's joie de vivre, which is likely to delight readers who share any of Milli's artistic leanings. Ages 4-up. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The characters, brilliantly illustrated, jump out of the pages. A hardcover treasure for the kids; a delight to read aloud.' Sunshine Coast Daily Good LivingKing's little people are carefree and winsome.' ABRNov 2003a magical, delightful story of being honest with yourself.' Bendigo Advertiser18/10/03
PreS-Gr 3-Milli has a special gift for seeing the artful potential in ordinary, forgotten objects. She loves to "take a straight piece of wire and give it a wiggle, or a simple square of cloth and set it dancing in the wind." However, her talents are hidden as she spends her days making plain, brown shoes for the other townspeople who only want sensible things. When two traveling minstrels, Jack and the Dancing Cat, come into the woman's shop, they offer her dancing lessons in exchange for new boots. Moving her body to the "two-step," the "three-step," and the "tricky twisting backward-sliding four-step" makes Milli feel "brave and free" and gives her the courage to release her creativity. Soon she is making "curly-toed shoes covered in stars" and livening up the neighborhood with musical instruments that make "sounds that had never been heard before." King's sprightly ink-and-watercolor illustrations capture the magic of Milli's creations. A charming story that celebrates imagination and individuality.-Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ontario, Canada Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.