The Quite Contrary Man: A True American Tale

Patricia Rusch Hyatt, illus. by Kathryn Brown. Abrams, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8109-4065-9
Hyatt (Coast to Coast with Alice) spotlights a little-known New England folk hero who ended up in jail because of his beard—and not just any old beard: "If Joseph Palmer faced the wind, his whopping whiskers swept over his shoulders and flapped down to his hip pockets." With this same tall-tale flair, the narrative maintains an alacritous tempo, beginning with the stubborn Palmer's babyhood (the opening vignette shows him ejecting blanket, bottle, and rattle from his cradle) and continuing through his day in court (after an altercation with townsmen who aimed to give him an unsolicited haircut), jail time, and eventual release. Brown's (Kisses on the Wind) warm-hued watercolors reiterate the folk yarn feel with rustic touches, such as the grapevine borders around the text. Even during Palmer's bleak imprisonment, his exaggerated mustache and beard flow prodigiously from behind bars, nearly touching the ground—a ready metaphor for freedom itself. An ending historical note provides background into the bald-faced fashion trend Palmer bucked, as well as the about-face that occurred soon after. A spirited introduction to an iconoclastic 19th-century activist. Ages 5–9. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/28/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
Genre: Children's
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