An intriguing if fanciful introduction to a musical classic.



“Zig and zig and zig. Maestro Death keeps time.” A friend’s poem and a visit to the catacombs underneath Paris in 1872 inspire composer Camille Saint-Saëns to write a now-famous orchestral piece echoing the sounds of dancing, clacking skeletal bones.

Imagining dialogue and taking some liberties with the story (as she explains in the backmatter), music scholar Celenza conjures up the underground visit, a first performance of the piece as a song, its orchestration and premier performance. She emphasizes the composer’s fascination with the idea of dancing skeletons and his desire “to try to capture that sensation in music.” She uses some delicious words—ossuary, amorously, rambunctious, diabolical, ghoulish—sure to intrigue young listeners. Two pages toward the end of the narrative could serve as program notes describing the story in the music. As with other books in this series, the package includes a CD recording. The 1996 performance is by the Pittsburgh Symphony directed by Lorin Maazel. Kitchel’s pastel watercolors belie the mood of the story, although the dancing skeletons, in shades of gray, will show beautifully for Halloween read-alouds. Though the live people in these illustrations have all the animation of paper dolls, these jointed figures clearly dance.

An intriguing if fanciful introduction to a musical classic. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-57091-348-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Wholesome, uncomplicated fare for the younger Matt Christopher crowd.


From the Zach and Zoe Mysteries series , Vol. 1

Lupica kicks off a new series starring a pair of 8-year-old twins who solve sports-themed mysteries.

Even the pleasures of competing in various events during his school’s Spirit Week dim a smidge for Zach Walker when the prized autographed baseball he brings to his third-grade class for show and tell vanishes. Happily, his bookish but equally sports-loving sister, Zoe, is on the case, and by the time of the climactic baseball game at week’s end, she has pieced together clues and deductions that lead to the lost treasure—which had not been stolen but batted through an open window by the teacher’s cat and stashed in a storage shed by the custodian. In the co-published sequel, The Half-Court Hero, the equally innocuous conundrum hangs on the identity of the mysterious “guardian angel” who is fixing up a run-down playground basketball court. Along with plenty of suspenseful sports action, the author highlights in both tales the values of fair play, teamwork, and doing the “right thing.” The Walker family presents white, but in both the narrative and Danger’s appropriately bland (if inappropriately static) illustrations, the supporting cast shows some racial and ethnic diversity.

Wholesome, uncomplicated fare for the younger Matt Christopher crowd. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-425-28936-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Hand this goofy bigfoot to young readers eager to get their starts in graphic novels.


Young ranger Jay uses his camping trip to capture evidence of the Sasquatch while unknowingly being occasionally pranked by one himself.

“Sound off!” Jay, a little Asian boy, is so engrossed in his quest to find the elusive Sasquatch that he is oblivious to the prompts from Ranger Dove (a young woman of color). Each member of his diverse troop questions his search tactics, which he eagerly answers only to be rebuked. Unbeknownst to all, Jay’s “lures” successfully intrigue a flower- and occasionally grass-skirt–wearing sasquatch named Sass and her posse of savvy woodland friends. In episodes characterized by quirky and physical humor, Sass messes with Jay and his troop: She leaves a “Sasquatch Footprint” (really a butt-print); she also puts out their campfire by spitting river water all over it. Things start to get real (well…Sass gets only a tad more serious) when she saves Jay from drowning and Jay wants to thank her. The story moves back and forth between the rangers and Sass and her friends, easily developing both sets of characters. Torres is a veteran of comic-book writing, and it shows, the text conveyed only in dialogue, sans narrator or footnotes. Grand’s thin, pencil-lined illustrations and the linear layout of rectangular panels make the story easy to follow for younger readers.

Hand this goofy bigfoot to young readers eager to get their starts in graphic novels. (Graphic fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77147-277-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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