A twisted tall tale told with verbal and visual bravado.

A spunky girl takes on three fearsome giants in this rousing tale.

Fostered by black bears, a human orphan climbs trees, sleeps in caves, and catches salmon with her fingers. Discovered in the woods by a childless couple who adopt her and name her Helen, the girl learns to talk, eat with a knife and fork, and sleep indoors—but she always remains barefoot. One day Helen happens upon a castle where she spies a trio of infamous “cruel killer-giants” feasting and decides to attack them with her slingshot. She eliminates two of them, but, alas, the third giant—Bulleybummus—captures Helen, coercing her to help him kidnap Princess Antoinette for ransom. Helen, however, cleverly manages to behead him and returns to the woods, leaving Princess Antoinette determined to discover the giant-killer’s identity by opening an all-day, all-night storytelling hotel, hoping it will attract the mystery giant-slayer to tell her story. “Inspired by many versions of similar stories from Newfoundland and Labrador and from all over the world,” according to a concluding note, this earthy, quirky, humorous version blends traditional folktale elements with the contemporary spin of a strong female heroine who lives happily-ever-after with the princess in a “s’blendid family.” What begins as a single story evolves into stories within stories, pulled together in a surprising climax. Striking, original illustrations, worked in black and white as well as vibrant color, capture the fierce dramatic action in a trim more usually seen in picture books than middle-grade fiction. Redheaded Helen is as white as paper, the princess has beige skin and brown hair, and “their seven ten-toed children” are racially diverse.

A twisted tall tale told with verbal and visual bravado. (Folktale. 8-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-927917-29-9

Page Count: 70

Publisher: Running the Goat

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020


Aimed straight at proto-Goosebumps fans, this formulaic series opener pits two 9-year-olds against a great white shark with legs. Having lost his bike in a lake thanks to the latest hare-brained scheme of his impulsive cousin Henry, bookish Keats reluctantly agrees to finance a replacement by earning some money taking on odd jobs at a spooky local mansion. The prosaic task of weeding the garden quickly turns into an extended flight through a series of magical rooms after a shark monster rises out of the ground and gives chase. Dashing from one narrow squeak to the next, the lads encounter a kitchen with an invisible "sink," a giant vomiting bookworm in the library, a carpet pattern in the hall that (literally) bites and, most usefully, a magic wand that they get to keep (setting up future episodes) after spelling the monster away. Tilted points of view give the occasional illustrations more energy than the labored plot ever musters, and the characters rarely show even two dimensions. Fledgling readers will do better in the hands of Jim Benton’s Franny K. Stein series or Bruce and Katherine Coville’s Moongobble and Me books. (Horror. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-86675-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011


From the Monstertown Mystery series , Vol. 3

More side-splitting, nose-holding heroics…in the face of a still-rising tide of monsters.

Fourth-grade monster hunters Carlos and Benny face their greatest, or at least smelliest, challenge yet.

What with “funky wet-cat-with-gas” odors coming out of the ventilators and a rash of students and faculty raving scarily before falling into comas, Monterrosa Elementary is on the verge of being shut down. Previous experiences with cannibalistic lunch ladies and other supernatural hazards have left Latino narrator Carlos and his white best friend, Benny, poised to deal with the ghosts or whatever else is plaguing the school…but the dog-sized, lion-headed stinging scorpions they find lurking in the mechanical room turn out to be only the beginning of their problems. Hale adds new student Esme Ygorre (white and a descendant of a renowned monster expert who spelled his name slightly differently) to the already notably diverse cast, livens up the narrative with one-liners and vivid similes (“Her face went as grim as an all-kale buffet”), and ups the stakes considerably with an entire army of chimerical horrors created by (natch) a billionaire villain. A spritz of cola and a little—OK, a lot of—catnip finally bring down scorp-lions and villain alike, but more monsters on the loose promise further sequels. A lenticular cover image adds melodrama to the light assortment of droll pen-and-ink drawings inside.

More side-splitting, nose-holding heroics…in the face of a still-rising tide of monsters. (Horror. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-1323-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

Close Quickview