Engaging, with strokes of brilliance.

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THE CHRONICLES OF HARRIS BURDICK

FOURTEEN AMAZING AUTHORS TELL THE TALES

Fourteen award-winning authors craft stories to accompany the captioned pictures from Van Allsburg’s 1984 enigma, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

That title contained 14 exquisitely rendered pencil drawings, purportedly deposited with an editor by their self-ascribed creator. Promising to return with companion texts, Burdick disappeared instead, leaving a generation of readers to puzzle over the incongruous illustrations. United only by the sense of macabre disequilibrium permeating each illustration, this volume’s stories vary in approach and effectiveness. Jules Feiffer delivers a clever but self-aggrandizing fable about a picture book author/illustrator whose increasingly mad attachment to his characters signals his demise. Jon Scieszka’s intentionally clichéd “Under the Rug” seems shallow and dashed-off compared to deeply imagined pieces like M.T. Anderson’s twitchily metaphysical “Just Desert.” Kate DiCamillo’s adroit epistolary tale, set on the World War II home front, uses the image of an escaping wallpaper bird as the touchstone for a traumatized girl’s breakthrough beyond silence and fear. Cory Doctorow’s time-space ramble centers on four adventuring children, ignoring that the accompanying drawing depicts the travelers as two children, a thick-set woman and a derby-hatted man. Linda Sue Park’s “The Harp” deftly directs charming characters in parallel plots to a meshed, triply happy ending, and Lois Lowry dazzles with a sophisticated meditation on “The Seven Chairs,” wherein mid-century Catholicism bows beneath the archetypal (and, perhaps, renascent) rise of women.

Engaging, with strokes of brilliance. (new and original introductions, author bios) (Fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0547548104

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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