At turns comical, ironic, and unnerving.

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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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A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers.

DRAGONS VS. UNICORNS

From the Kate the Chemist series

A fifth grade girl brings her love of chemistry to the school play.

Kate loves science so much she’s determined to breathe fire. Of course she knows that she needs adult supervision, and so, with her science teacher’s help, Kate demonstrates an experiment with cornstarch and a blowtorch that nearly sets her teacher’s cactus on fire. Consequences ensue. Can someone who loves science as much as Kate does find pleasure spending her fall break at drama camp? It turns out that even the school play—Dragons vs. Unicorns—needs a chemist, though, and Kate saves the day with glue and glitter. She’s sabotaged along the way, but everything is fine after Kate and her frenemy agree to communicate better (an underwhelming response to escalating bullying). Doodles decorate the pages; steps for the one experiment described that can be done at home—making glittery unicorn-horn glue—are included. The most exciting experiments depicted, though, include flames or liquid nitrogen and could only be done with the help of a friendly science teacher. Biberdorf teaches chemistry at the University of Texas and also performs science-education programs as “Kate the Chemist”; in addition to giving her protagonist her name and enthusiasm, she also seems represented in Kate-the-character’s love of the fictional YouTube personality “Dr. Caroline.” Kate and her nemesis are white; Kate’s best friends are black and South Asian.

A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11655-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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