TALE OF THE SHADOW KING

From the Prince & Knight series , Vol. 2

Prince and knight return to take on an evil adversary.

This sequel to Prince & Knight (2018) picks up after the prince and knight’s wedding day and begins with a coronation (but, a little puzzlingly, the prince is never referred to as a king). The two men’s love “inspired everyone in sight,” but soon a “fog of darkness” descends upon the realm. Daylight disappears. The crops suffer blight. The prince gravely tells his husband, “We must face this threat tonight!” The pair consults with the kingdom’s “wise old sage,” who sends them to find the Shadow King, whose “soul is filled with rage.” After “trudging through the wilderness,” the prince and knight make it to the Shadow King’s fortress and best his army of monsters. Eventually, they reach the Shadow King and help repair the harm that resulted from his evil ways. With rich colors and cinematic sequences, Lewis’ animation-inflected art shines in this fantastical tale. Whereas in the first book knight rescued prince, the reverse happens here—a delightful counterpoint to heteronormative gender roles. Though excellent in its positive depiction of queer heroes, the book’s heavy-handed message is made worse by Haack’s awkward, rhyming text. Aside from the brown-skinned knight, the royal family presents White. Supporting characters add additional racial diversity. With the addition of the Shadow King and his squire, the story moves from tokenization toward a sense of queer community. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.3-by-19.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 56% of actual size.)

Pretty but preachy. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4998-1121-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How To Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Action, clever humor, delightful illustrations and expectation-defying secret identities—when does the next one come out?

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THE PRINCESS IN BLACK

From the Princess in Black series , Vol. 1

Perfect Princess Magnolia has a secret—her alter ego is the Princess in Black, a superhero figure who protects the kingdom!

When nosy Duchess Wigtower unexpectedly drops by Princess Magnolia’s castle, Magnolia must protect her secret identity from the duchess’s prying. But then Magnolia’s monster alarm, a glitter-stone ring, goes off. She must save the day, leaving the duchess unattended in her castle. After a costume change, the Princess in Black joins her steed, Blacky (public identity: Frimplepants the unicorn), to protect Duff the goat boy and his goats from a shaggy, blue, goat-eating monster. When the monster refuses to see reason, Magnolia fights him, using special moves like the “Sparkle Slam” and the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Smash.” The rounded, cartoony illustrations featuring chubby characters keep the fight sequence soft and comical. Watching the fight, Duff notices suspicious similarities between the Princess in Black and Magnolia—quickly dismissed as “a silly idea”—much like the duchess’s dismissal of some discovered black stockings as being simply dirty, as “princesses don’t wear black.” The gently ironic text will amuse readers (including adults reading the book aloud). The large print and illustrations expand the book to a longish-yet-manageable length, giving newly independent readers a sense of accomplishment. The ending hints at another hero, the Goat Avenger.

Action, clever humor, delightful illustrations and expectation-defying secret identities—when does the next one come out? (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6510-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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