Nothing like shared brushes with horrible, agonizing death to draw seemingly incompatible characters together, right?

DUST & GRIM

Chills and thrills ensue when long-separated siblings find themselves custodians of a very special funeral home and cemetery.

Returning to the old mansion deep in the Pennsylvania woods from which her fun-loving if ne’er-do-well dad had spirited her years before, newly orphaned 13-year-old Molly Grim is bummed by the cold reception she gets from her likewise parentless, tightly wound 18-year-old brother, Dustin Ashe, but stoked to discover that she’s inherited a half interest in Mothstead, a final resting place for monsters—or “nonstandard citizens,” to use the less pejorative term. Sparks fly at first, but in battling their uncle Gordo, who turns out to be even more demonic than his everyday persona as a slovenly accident attorney would suggest, the two ultimately discover that they’re good for one another. Playing to strengths demonstrated in his many comics and tales for older audiences, not only is Wendig a dab hand at concocting extremely creepy critters, but here he also pulls together a secondary cast of quarrelsome but supportive allies for the beleaguered teens, featuring a (generally) low-key vampire, a mercurial fox spirit (“Cat software loaded onto dog hardware,” as one observer puts it), and other slyly tweaked supernatural grown-ups. Most of the cast presents White; one supporting character is Black, and one is cued as Latinx.

Nothing like shared brushes with horrible, agonizing death to draw seemingly incompatible characters together, right? (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-70623-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Next to the exhilarating renditions of Rosemary Sutcliff (The Wanderings of Odysseus, 1996) and Geraldine McCaughrean...

THE ODYSSEY

An anemic retelling of the epic is paired to crabbed, ugly illustrations.

Breaking for occasional glimpses back to Penelope’s plight in Ithaca, Cross relates Odysseus’ travels in a linear narrative that begins with his departure for Troy but skips quickly over the war’s events to get to the sack of the city of the Cicones and events following. Along with being careless about continuity (Odysseus’ men are “mad with thirst” on one page and a few pages later swilling wine that they had all the time, for instance), the reteller’s language is inconsistent in tone. It is sprinkled with the requisite Homeric references to the “wine-dark sea” and Dawn’s rosy fingers but also breaks occasionally into a modern-sounding idiom: “ ‘What’s going on?’ Athene said, looking around at the rowdy suitors.” Packer decorates nearly every spread with either lacy figures silhouetted in black or gold or coarsely brushed paintings depicting crouching, contorted humans, gods and monsters with, generally, chalky skin, snaggled teeth, beer bellies or other disfigurements. The overall effect is grim, mannered and remote.

Next to the exhilarating renditions of Rosemary Sutcliff (The Wanderings of Odysseus, 1996) and Geraldine McCaughrean (Odysseus, 2004), this version makes bland reading, and the contorted art is, at best a poor match. (afterword, maps) (Illustrated classic. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4791-9

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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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: Dec. 1, 2020

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