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At turns comical, ironic, and unnerving.

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. 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 2

The second installment in this spirited series is a hit.

A new baby coming means Ryan has lots of opportunities to grow love.

Ryan has so much to look forward to this summer—she is going to be a big sister, and she finally gets to go to church camp! But new adventures bring challenges, too. Ryan feels like the baby is taking forever to arrive, and with Mom on bed rest, she isn’t able to participate in the family’s typical summer activities. Ryan’s Dad is still working the late shift, which means he gets home and goes to bed when she and her older brother, Ray, are waking up, so their quality daddy-daughter time is limited to one day a week. When the time for camp finally arrives, Ryan is so worried about bugs, ghosts, and sharing a cabin that she wonders if she should go at all. Watson’s heroine is smart and courageous, bringing her optimistic attitude to any challenge she faces. Hard topics like family finances and complex relationships with friends are discussed in an age-appropriate way. Watson continues to excel at crafting a sense of place; she transports readers to Portland, Oregon, with an attention to detail that can only come from someone who has loved that city. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and occasional illustrations by Mata spotlight their joy and make this book shine.

The second installment in this spirited series is a hit. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0058-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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