Readers are better off with the original because, as the British would say, this rendition is too clever by half.



From the Save the Story series

A literal bird’s-eye recounting of the Greek tragedy Antigone in the current era of kids and teens, such as Naomi Wadler and the Parkland High School shooting survivor-activists, leading the movements to speak truth to power.

Scottish author Smith (Winter, 2018, etc.) relates the classic play through the admittedly clever viewpoint of a carrion crow. The nameless bird, gendered as “she,” watches 12-year-old Antigone and her “maybe a little older,” though not age-specified, sister, Ismene, as the former defies the new king—and their uncle—Creon, who forbids anyone to administer funeral rites to Polynices, whom the king declares a traitor and who is Antigone and Ismene’s brother, on point of death. Of course, anyone familiar with Sophocles’ legendary drama knows Antigone’s deadly decision to honor her brother and the unheeded counsel Creon receives about punishing her choice that leads to the tragedy’s devastating conclusion. This beat-for-beat update does not change that plot. Though the illustrations’ muted pink and gray tones give a somberly ethereal quality, the author’s use of the bird as a narrative device distances readers from the characters’ very human decisions and their heartbreaking consequences—the very antithesis of tragedy’s purpose. This is one of three revisited classics released simultaneously; the others are The Story of Captain Nemo, by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Fabian Negrin, and The Story of Gulliver, by Jonathan Cho and illustrated by Sarah Oddi.

Readers are better off with the original because, as the British would say, this rendition is too clever by half. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78269-089-4

Page Count: 100

Publisher: Pushkin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A deft mix of chills and chuckles, not quite as sideways as Wayside School but in the same district.


From the Secrets of Topsea series , Vol. 1

A fifth-grader struggles to fit in after he and his recently widowed mother move to a decidedly oddball new town.

As if the seemingly infinite pier, the lighthouse in the middle of town, and the beach teeming with enigmatic cats aren’t strange enough, Davy Jones discovers that his school locker has been relocated to the deep end of the swimming pool, his lunchtime fries are delivered by a “spudzooka,” and no one seems to be able to get his name right. On the other hand, his classmates welcome him, and in next to no time he’s breaking into an abandoned arcade to play pinball against a ghost, helping track down a pet pig gone missing on Gravity Maintenance Day, and like adventures that, often as not, take sinister swerves before edging back to the merely peculiar. Point-of-view duties pass freely from character to character, and chapters are punctuated with extracts from the Topsea School Gazette (“Today’s Seaweed Level: Medium-high and feisty”), bulletins on such topics as the safe handling of rubber ducks, and background notes on, for instance, the five local seasons, giving the narrative a pleasantly loose-jointed feel. Davy presents as white, but several other central cast members are specifically described as dark- or light-skinned and are so depicted in the frequent line drawings; one has two moms.

A deft mix of chills and chuckles, not quite as sideways as Wayside School but in the same district. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-00005-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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From the Crystal Cadets series , Vol. 1

On her birthday, a teenager learns that she is one of the Crystal Cadets, a textbook group of young, magic-wielding heroines charged with saving the world from vague, clichéd darkness.

This series opener introduces Zoe to the other Crystal Cadets: Jasmine, Olivia, Gwen, Liz, Milena, and a sixth, who is used as a plot twist. They ride fabulous creatures like winged horses and giant butterflies and use magical tools to fight off creepy people with black eyes. Zoe seems only momentarily fazed to find her parents evidently possessed before being whisked away. Glib dialogue makes the book feel trite and superficial. “Nonny, nonny boo boo. You can’t catch me!” sings a young cadet as she faces off against what looks like a toothed shadow. Attempts at puns create cringe-worthy moments: “Looks like the crystal's out of the bag!” The story was originally published as a digital comic series, and Toole’s writing offers mostly choppy transitions and is further hampered by poor worldbuilding, logic, and back story. In what feels like a halfhearted stab at grounding the story, Olivia explains, “The darkness has been around forever. It feeds on bad stuff, like fear and greed and bad manners.” If both story and illustrations remind readers of Sailor Moon, that is about par for the course. O’Neill’s depictions are fair and in the vein of manga comics, though at times they look depthless.

Skip and pass. (Graphic fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63140-431-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Roar Comics/Lion Forge

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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