From the Monster Heroes series , Vol. 1

Never a dull moment at Frankenstein Elementary.

Four good-hearted monsters repeatedly save the day by concocting clever ways to foil the schemes of their evil families and schoolmates.

Their challenges range from getting the residents of Hill House (“across from Shirley Jackson’s tomb”) to laugh rather than scream at a trio of ectoplasmic pranksters to saving the Plasma family after vampire neighbors issue an invitation to…dinner. Happily, Will, Mina, Brian, and Linda—respectively, a shy ghost, a vampire who prefers beet juice to blood, a brainy zombie, and a curse-reversing witch— rise to every challenge by putting their heads and magical powers together. Bardin adds a zany element to the well-leaded narrative with daffy cartoon illustrations, and if some of them are crowded to the point of looking cramped, he does at least endow his popeyed figures with a range of skin colors, natural and (more commonly) otherwise. (Will is a classic white sheet, Mina has light-blue skin and fuchsia hair, Brian is a delicate puce, and Linda has green skin and white hair.) Hoena tucks sufficient tongue-in-cheek references into the narrative to keep older readers amused, should they happen upon the book.

Never a dull moment at Frankenstein Elementary. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62370-783-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017


A grim cautionary tale reworked as a short adventure with a happy ending for primary grade readers and listeners.

Playing by the loch on a sunny afternoon, the blacksmith's five children find a beautiful white horse and attempt to ride it, only to be nearly drowned.

In this latest addition to a series of retellings of Scottish folk and fairy tales, the author uses elements of various traditional versions and acknowledges several collections of Scottish tales as source material. But Don makes her story far gentler than many. The youngest child, Flora, is the principal: the one who finds the beautiful white horse, figures out its true identity as a shape-shifting kelpie, and saves her siblings. No children die, and no fingers have to be cut off, only a piece of the creature’s mane. Sadly, though the story is told smoothly, with interesting language and plentiful dialogue, it never really comes to life. There are some Scottish words and usages: "Don't be daft," says Fergus when Flora refuses to get on the horse. But neither words nor images provide a strong sense of place. The illustrations, full of lines and swirls suggesting action, don't help to draw readers in. The characters are distant, even in close-up portrayals, looking down and away from readers. The colors are muted, just like the tale.

A grim cautionary tale reworked as a short adventure with a happy ending for primary grade readers and listeners. (Picture book/folk tale. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-78250-253-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kelpies

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016


Steer Cthulhu-craving kiddies to Charles Gilman’s fearful and funny Lovecraft Middle School.

Dr. Fell, foul fiend or friend to children?

The last house on Hardscrabble Street, empty and old, has always been a playground for the local children, so when a “sold” sign appears in the yard, no one’s pleased. Jerry and Gail Bloom and Gail’s friend Nancy Pinkblossom meet their new neighbor, the wizened Dr. Fell, and bemoan the loss of their play space. A few days later, a fantastical playground of pirate ships and castle towers appears in Dr. Fell’s yard. Before long, children start getting hurt there, but every injury on Dr. Fell’s playground heals quickly under his care. Gail, Jerry, and Nancy grow suspicious, especially when their parents start acting strangely. Then Gail returns from a visit to Dr. Fell acting brainwashed. Her friend and brother cure her, but as Dr. Fell’s control of the town grows, the trio realizes something terribly sinister’s afoot. Can they head it off? Actor and storyteller Neilsen’s debut tries too hard from the start. Dr. Fell speaks in purple prose and then translates himself nearly every time he converses, a characterization tic that grows old quickly. Repetition of humorless gags and forced quirkiness in nomenclature cannot be saved by a shallow attempt at Lovecraft-ian horror far too late in the tale. Terry’s black-and-white illustrations add atmosphere and depict an evidently all-white cast.

Steer Cthulhu-craving kiddies to Charles Gilman’s fearful and funny Lovecraft Middle School. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93578-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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