PANKRATION

THE ULTIMATE GAME

Australian Blacklock debuts with a gory, rough-hewn tale set in ancient Greece and Italy. Sent from Athens to escape the plague, young Nicasylus is taken by pirates and sold into slavery; he escapes, makes his way to Olympia, and witnesses the vicious Pankration, a no-rules fight that lasts until all but one competitor is too broken up to continue. The author splits the story between Nic and his giant friend Gellius—a sailor who survives the pirate attack—who undergoes the requisite nine months of training and purification required to compete in the games, and is beaten to a pulp but crowned victor when Nic fingers his opponent as the pirate captain. There are some who may enjoy following Nic’s blood-and-vomit-splashed trail to Olympia, but neither of the protagonists sees much beyond the climactic bout, even though Blacklock prepares readers for a visit to the ancient games. The rarely used setting, tailor-made for historical fiction book reports, may spark some interest. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8075-6323-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1999

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DORY STORY

Who is next in the ocean food chain? Pallotta has a surprising answer in this picture book glimpse of one curious boy. Danny, fascinated by plankton, takes his dory and rows out into the ocean, where he sees shrimp eating those plankton, fish sand eels eating shrimp, mackerel eating fish sand eels, bluefish chasing mackerel, tuna after bluefish, and killer whales after tuna. When an enormous humpbacked whale arrives on the scene, Danny’s dory tips over and he has to swim for a large rock or become—he worries’someone’s lunch. Surreal acrylic illustrations in vivid blues and red extend the story of a small boy, a small boat, and a vast ocean, in which the laws of the food chain are paramount. That the boy has been bathtub-bound during this entire imaginative foray doesn’t diminish the suspense, and the facts Pallotta presents are solidly researched. A charming fish tale about the one—the boy—that got away. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-88106-075-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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FIDDLIN' SAM

In a family memoir of the most affecting kind, readers are invited to a long-ago time in the Ozark Mountains and the story of a musician who owned “the clothes on his back and a fine old lionhead fiddle.” Fiddlin’ Sam is the inheritor of the peripatetic, minstrel’s life of his father, who taught Sam his art, saying, “This ain’t a gift, Son. It’s a loan. You gotta pass the music along.” Sam accepts the food that appreciative people give him, but politely refuses their offer of a bed. When a rattler bites him, Sam fears he has failed his calling; the music will die with him. In the feverish time that follows, someone takes care of him, a young man whom Sam hopes will take up the gift and carry it along—but the boy has other plans. In the years that follow, Sam meets another young man on the road who reminds him of the first one, and, indeed, is his son. Their path together lasts long enough for Sam to pass along his gift and its joys and burdens before he dies. An endpiece dedication allows readers to glimpse aspects of the story that are based in truth. A rhythmic refrain underscores the emotions of the story, and even acts as the vehicle of the ascension of Sam’s soul at death. Gerig’s watercolors deliver the scenic beauty of the region and carry their own version of a familial tribute. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 1999

ISBN: 0-87358-742-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Rising Moon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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