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A thought-provoking if not particularly successful experiment.

Illustrations done in a style indigenous to West Bengal test the universality of Collodi’s classic puppet-to-boy tale.

In the text, which is Della Chiesa’s 1925 translation abridged to about half its length, proper names—Mastro Antonio, Geppetto, Pulcinella—preserve the original’s Italian flavor. Chitrakar’s almond-eyed, dark- or golden-skinned figures definitely push that envelope. Chocolate-hued Pinocchio, clad only in a tightly wrapped loincloth and sporting a white pectoral to go with similarly lacy armlets and anklets, bears a heavy-lidded, enigmatically smiling expression throughout. This last is in keeping, as explained in the afterword, with the artist’s conception of him as a “lovable yet godly trickster figure,” like Krishna. Other humans are clad in loose traditional Bengali dress and drawn, like the animal characters, in heavy-lined, stylized ways that don’t always agree with the text. The azure-haired maiden, for instance, “face white as wax,” is honey-colored in the accompanying portrait. The depicted action, too, is so stylized that few if any readers would be able to connect pictures to story without prompts from the captions.

A thought-provoking if not particularly successful experiment. (afterword) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-93-83145-12-6

Page Count: 188

Publisher: Tara Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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Unfortunate Events galore, served with relish.

The creator of such picture books as Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance (1999) and Three Nasty Gnarlies (2003) dishes up a first novel seasoned with the same delightfully twisted, ghoulish sensibility.

Immediately upon arriving in Awkward Falls, a small Manitoba town known for its canned sauerkraut and its Asylum for the Dangerously Insane (“both,” notes the narrator, “to be avoided at all costs, as one was likely to cause gas, and the other, death.”), 12-year-old Josephine meets agemate Thaddeus Hibble. Thaddeus is a scientific genius who has lived alone since infancy on an all–junk-food diet supplied by a robot butler and paid for by re-animating the dead pets of local matrons. Together the two are plunged into personal danger and worse at the clutching hands of hunchbacked lunatic cannibal Fetid Stenchley, former lab assistant and Asylum escapee. With aid from a supporting cast of colorful locals, a half-rotted corpse brought back to partial life and a ravening herd of chimerical monsters created in a secret biotechnology lab, Graves crafts a quick-moving plot composed of macabre twists. These are made all the ickier for being presented in significant part from Stenchley’s point of view. Wordless opening and closing sequences, plus a handful of interior illustrations, both fill in background detail and intensify the overall macabre atmosphere. The central characters receive just, if, under the circumstances, not necessarily final deserts.

Unfortunate Events galore, served with relish. (finished illustrations not seen) (Melodrama. 11-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8118-7814-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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Not a total nonstarter, though the nonsensical premise fully qualifies as a literary lead balloon.

Shovels full of throwaway gags and silly aliens fail to lighten this overstuffed and entirely predictable debut.

Handed a planetary lease signed by Adam and Eve, 13-year-old Giles learns that since humanity has done a lousy job of caring for the Earth, everyone will be transported to the concrete wasteland of Desoleen to make way for new owners unless he removes all the trash and graffiti from Manhattan Island in 24 hours and adds five million leaves to clear the air. Fortunately he has allies—notably cute, blue-skinned lawyer (soon girlfriend) Tula and gelatinous genius inventor (and shoe fetishist) Melissa Sprinkles. The latter provides both deceptively tiny “flyplanes” with magic paint-removing rays and street-cleaning droids that replicate themselves into an army using the trash they pick up and then turn into giant trees. Unfortunately, purple hyperbrat Princess Petulance is hot to trot from her own despoiled planet and so stands ready to sabotage the clean-up in any cheating way she can. Mihaley squeezes in sibling issues, the requisite bully (who ends up totally pwned by Giles’ new techno toys) and aptly named alien life forms like a “wino tree” before thoroughly contrived last-minute treachery is scotched thanks to hordes of children inspired to finish the makeover by Giles’ wheelchair-bound eco-blogger buddy Navida.

Not a total nonstarter, though the nonsensical premise fully qualifies as a literary lead balloon. (Science fiction/fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-61891-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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