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Miz Berlin Walks


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About the Author

Jane Yolen ( needs no introduction! She has been called the "Hans Christian Andersen of children's literature" (Time) and has won countless awards for her wide-ranging body of work -- picture books, poetry, nonfiction, middle-grade fiction, YA novels, and novels and poetry for adults. She was also the editor of her own imprints at Harcourt (Jane Yolen Books and the reprint line Magic Carpet Books), where she published best-selling authors Patricia C. Wrede, Bruce Coville, and Anne McCaffrey, among many others. Floyd Cooper ( started drawing when he was three years old and has never stopped. He has been awarded the Coretta Scott King Award for The Blacker the Berry, three Coretta Scott King Honors for Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea, Meet Danitra Brown, and I Have Heard of a Land, and an NAACP image award. He was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and graduated with a degree in fine arts from the University of Oklahoma.


Yolen is pitch-perfect in her delivery of this tender tale of the friendship that blossoms between an elderly white woman and an African American girl. Miz Berlin is well known in her neighborhood for the long and slow walks she takes around the block each evening. Mary Louise can't help wondering about the odd lady, who seems to be talking to herself as she passes by. One day Mary Louise's curiosity impels her to accompany Miz Berlin for a short stretch of the walk, and to her delight she discovers Miz Berlin's talent for spinning stories. The two form a poignant bond that sustains Mary Louise even when Miz Berlin's walking days come to an end. Dedicating her story to her real-life grandmother, Fanny Berlin, Yolen adopts first the voice of the grown Mary Louise, who narrates the tale in flashback, and then interpolates the voice of Miz Berlin. Her mellifluous text, occasionally peppered with Southern dialect, has the easygoing pace of her heroines' strolls. Atmospheric descriptions of wind that "whispers kindly through the tall sycamores" and "the time it rained feathers" provide Cooper (Gingerbread Days; Ma Dear's Aprons) with choice imagery for his subtle, grainy paintings soaked in Virginia sunlight. He pairs lively portraits of Miz Berlin and Mary Louise with scenes of Mary Louise imagining herself in Miz Berlin's adventures, progressively involving the reader and strengthening the implied message that storytelling has a reality of its own. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

Gr 1-3‘Cooper's ability to define and personalize characters and his soft-focus technique, which gives a nostalgic veneer to his artwork, make him a wise choice for this touching tale. Over the course of the story, the faces of the narrator, a young African-American girl, and Miz Berlin, an elderly white woman, fluctuate with emotion as the two begin and enjoy a friendship in a small Virginia town. Miz Berlin, "talking or singing or in quiet contemplation" walks the town, and although Mary Louise can only accompany her to the end of the block, she finds the woman's stories of catching crawdads on the day the sky rained feathers, living through a hurricane, or being born in a dirt-floor cabin captivating and comes to know the woman in a wonderful way. At the end, when Miz Berlin dies, the girl realizes that she has shared an experience that will be part of her life forever. While a number of intergenerational stories are available, most center on a grandparent-grandchild relationship; this, like Nancy White Carlstrom and Amy Schwartz's Blow Me a Kiss, Miss Lily (HarperCollins, 1990), focuses on a friendship between two non-related people. The cross-cultural cast is an added plus.‘Barbara Elleman, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI

Praise for Miz Berlin Walks

"This poignant book conveys through simple words the power of stories to build bridges between two very different people."--Booklist "Yolen is pitch-perfect in her delivery of this tender tale."--Publishers Weekly "A storyteller's dream."--Children's Literature

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