A twisted tall tale told with verbal and visual bravado.

BAREFOOT HELEN AND THE GIANTS

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. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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ATTACK OF THE SHARK-HEADED ZOMBIE

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

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At turns comical, ironic, and unnerving.

THE YARK

The Yark, a child-eating monster tormented by dietary restrictions, struggles against consuming the good-hearted Madeleine.

Santini upends the old “be good or monsters will get you” admonition: the Yark’s delicate digestion necessitates eating only good children, which are increasingly scarce. After returning from the North Pole with Santa’s list of good and naughty children, the Yark’s attempts to consume Charlotte and then Lewis are thwarted. An omniscient narrator conveys the monster’s inner turmoil in present-tense prose replete with folkloric motifs. Well- and badly behaved children, a beast’s primal internal struggle between natural impulses and civilizing behavior, and the power of a young girl’s purity of heart make appearances. Propelled by supersonic digestive distress after mistakenly eating Lewis’ mean brother, Jack, the soaring Yark crashes into an old lighthouse (the symbolic tower of folklore), where Madeleine befriends and cossets him. Her love for the beast verges on the masochistic. “Distressed at the thought of him going away, she offers her hand….‘Take a bite! Just a few fingers! I have plenty….Eat a few if it will calm your appetite!’ ” Fleeing, the starving Yark lands amid a horde of abandoned wild children, whose tormenting behavior occasions their own demise, the Yark’s subsequent, adaptive redemption, and his reunion with Madeleine. Gapaillard’s beautiful drawings set the emotive, toothy Yark into moody, cinematic landscapes and intricate interiors. Most of the children the Yark encounters appear to be white.

At turns comical, ironic, and unnerving. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77657-171-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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