An inconsistent but imaginative, clever tale in the spirit of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.

HOW THE TORTOISE GOT HIS SHELL

Schwulst’s picture book portrays an African folktale about the tortoise and his shell.

Thomas the tortoise, soft and wrinkled in body, searches for shelter on a “cold, dark and stormy night.” Finding none, he seeks warmth and a nap in the morning on a rock warmed by the sun. Monkeys wake him by chattering about the lion king’s malady, from which he will surely die. Skeptical, Thomas sets out to see for himself. At the king’s camp, Thomas finds Victor the Vulture. Victor confirms the king’s grave illness and says the only cure is for the lion to consume a pile of nuts, but no one can crack them open. Edward the Elephant could do it, but he stubbornly refuses. Kindhearted Thomas gets an idea and waddles off to bring Edward to the camp. As he goes, the monkeys laugh at the idea that a “small squishy tortoise” like Thomas could make Edward do anything. Thomas says that if he does bring Edward back, they all must kneel and must call him, Thomas, king. The monkeys laugh at this joke but say they will do as Thomas asks. Thomas finds Wilma Warthog, who agrees to dig a hole, deep and wide, and fill it with the nuts. Thomas finds Edward and tells him all the animals want him to be king and that they’ve invited him to a feast. Edward immediately booms agreement and scoops Thomas up on his back for the trek to the king’s camp. The monkeys greet them, kneel and yell, “All hail the King.” Edward sticks out his chest, boasting and strutting, until he falls into the hole, where he stomps and stomps until all the nuts are crushed and made into a stew. The stew heals the king, and Thomas wins his protective shell. The story and characters are delightful, but the illustrations are dark and out of harmony with the optimism of Thomas’ tale. Rhyme and rhythm are used erratically, which makes for awkward reading. Confusing punctuation errors appear throughout the text.

An inconsistent but imaginative, clever tale in the spirit of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1479260904

Page Count: 32

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2013

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath...

GREGORY AND THE GRIMBOCKLE

In this debut middle-grade novel, a lonely boy finds friendship and learns about the magic of human connection.

Defined by the large mole on his lip, 10-year-old Gregory has grown distant from his family. He is friendless and withdrawn. Then one night a strange little creature emerges from Gregory’s mole. It is riding a (quite lovable) cockroach and can change size. This is the Grimbockle. The Grimbockle—one of many Bockles, who, like Palmer Cox’s Brownies, live at the peripheries of human awareness—tends to the exoodles that bind people together. Exoodles are long, transparent, noodlelike threads and are usually invisible. Once Gregory has his eyeballs painted with Carrot Juicy, though, he can see them. He joins the Grimbockle and the roach, traveling the exoodles as if on a high-speed roller coaster. Exoodles wither and die when people don’t look after their relationships. The Grimbockle is trying to repair a particularly sickly exoodle that links a boy to his mother. Can Gregory help—and can he mend the exoodles in his own life? Schubert follows delightedly in the footsteps of Roald Dahl, opening her unfortunate young protagonist’s eyes to a previously unseen world both weird and wondrous (yet for all its outlandish magic, oddly logical). The scenario is one of riotous imagination, while the Grimbockle himself—brought sweetly to life in black-and-white illustrations by Kraft—is a sprightly and good-natured little person, full of the type of singsong infelicities found in Dahl’s beloved nonhuman characters: “Is you ever seeing glimpses of squiggles in the corners of your twinklers but then they is disappearing in a snippety blink?” “ ‘Exoodles!’ shouted the Grimbockle in triumph. ‘Sometimes, hoo-mans is getting so twisty and wound up in extra exoodles that they is feeling gloomy blue and heavy all day long.’ ” The story is perhaps too much of a parable to fully match Dahl’s template; the adventure is safer and the threats less dark. Nonetheless, readers should fall willingly and with thrilled abandon into the fizzy, fanciful world of Gregory and his Grimbockle friend.

A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath surface appearances.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9911109-3-3

Page Count: 153

Publisher: New Wrinkle Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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