Huck’s and Lobel collaborate again (Toads and Diamonds, 1996, etc.) in a retelling of a very old Scottish tale. Huck’s text is powerful and sweet, well-matched by Lobel’s theatrically imagined pictures. Three sisters plan their marriages, and the youngest, Peggy Ann, wishes only for a husband who is kind and good—even if he’s the Black Bull of Norroway. Naturally the Black Bull appears and takes her away, but he feeds her and chooses the easiest paths as he carries her on his back. They stop at three castles, owned by the Black Bull’s three brothers, and each gives Peggy Ann a gift to use when “your heart is like to break and then to break again.” When she takes a thorn from the bull’s foot, he’s restored to his true self as the Duke of Norroway, but only at night until he vanquishes the Guardian of the Glen. Peggy Ann is instructed to sit and wait for him without moving, but when she knows that he’s won, her excitement moves her to stand and this makes it impossible for him to locate her. Setting out to find him herself, Peggy Ann is faced with a glass mountain, seven years of apprenticeship, the witch who first placed the Duke under a spell, and the witch’s conniving daughter. In the end, she frees her beloved by perseverance and pluck—as well as the three treasures. The story’s provenance is carefully traced in an author’s note: though set in Norway, Peggy Ann’s black braids and references to food and certain physical features clearly set it in the Scots tradition. Lobel’s watercolor and ink illustrations are gorgeously rich in patterns: plaids and florals, watery swirls, and jagged peaks. Huck’s effort to find “traditional tales that show plucky girls” pays off here. (Picture book/folktale. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 30, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-16900-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.


From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the...


From the Charlie Bumpers series , Vol. 1

Charlie Bumpers is doomed. The one teacher he never wanted in the whole school turns out to be his fourth-grade teacher.

Charlie recalls third grade, when he accidentally hit the scariest teacher in the whole school with his sneaker. “I know all about you, Charlie Bumpers,” she says menacingly on the first day of fourth grade. Now, in addition to all the hardships of starting school, he has gotten off on the wrong foot with her. Charlie’s dry and dramatic narrative voice clearly reveals the inner life of a 9-year-old—the glass is always half empty, especially in light of a series of well-intentioned events gone awry. It’s quite a litany: “Hitting Mrs. Burke in the head with the sneaker. The messy desk. The swinging on the door. The toilet paper. And now this—the shoe on the roof.” Harley has teamed once again with illustrator Gustavson (Lost and Found, 2012) to create a real-life world in which a likable kid must face the everyday terrors of childhood: enormous bullies, looming teachers and thick gym coaches with huge pointing fingers. Into this series opener, Harley magically weaves the simple lesson that people, even teachers, can surprise you.

Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the sarcasm of Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-56145-732-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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