Subtly untraditional, with lovely prose.

BRAVE RED, SMART FROG

A NEW BOOK OF OLD TALES

Folk and fairy tales intersect in tiny ways.

Loosely organized in and around a frozen forest where “the streams were iced, the bushes bare” come seven classical tales. There are witches here, “some with cold hearts, and others with hot ovens and ugly appetites”; there is “beauty like an icicle—sharp and slippery.” Parents die, and children either turn “bitter as walnuts” or stay “sweet as cherries.” Each tale keeps mostly to itself, holding its integrity and recognizability—but they whisper to one another. A “sunny forest populated by bunnies and bluebirds” shows up more than once in contrast to the frozen one; the huntsman who slits open Red Riding Hood’s wolf is “returning from a terrible errand,” which hauntingly reveals that he’s Snow White’s huntsman too. Red’s wolf inquires whether her grandmother lives “in the sugar house,” a reference to "Hansel and Gretel." A dry, repeated lesson about beauty in character whisks past. Jenkins experiments with modern moral complexity by afflicting Red’s wolf with painful hunger and self-hatred for how he sates it and by painting the Frog Prince’s princess—who never gets to throw her frog against a wall—as problematically girly and spoiled. An old trope of blindness connoting evil remains. Humans are ostensibly white; a tree sprite is brown. Eason’s illustrations seem consciously to evoke the work of Trina Schart Hyman.

Subtly untraditional, with lovely prose. (author’s note) (Fairy tales. 5-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6558-6

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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This story covers the few days preceding the much-anticipated Midnight Zombie Walk, when Stink and company will take to the...

STINK AND THE MIDNIGHT ZOMBIE WALK

From the Stink series

An all-zombie-all-the-time zombiefest, featuring a bunch of grade-school kids, including protagonist Stink and his happy comrades.

This story covers the few days preceding the much-anticipated Midnight Zombie Walk, when Stink and company will take to the streets in the time-honored stiff-armed, stiff-legged fashion. McDonald signals her intent on page one: “Stink and Webster were playing Attack of the Knitting Needle Zombies when Fred Zombie’s eye fell off and rolled across the floor.” The farce is as broad as the Atlantic, with enough spookiness just below the surface to provide the all-important shivers. Accompanied by Reynolds’ drawings—dozens of scene-setting gems with good, creepy living dead—McDonald shapes chapters around zombie motifs: making zombie costumes, eating zombie fare at school, reading zombie books each other to reach the one-million-minutes-of-reading challenge. When the zombie walk happens, it delivers solid zombie awfulness. McDonald’s feel-good tone is deeply encouraging for readers to get up and do this for themselves because it looks like so much darned fun, while the sub-message—that reading grows “strong hearts and minds,” as well as teeth and bones—is enough of a vital interest to the story line to be taken at face value.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5692-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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Will leave readers as happy as a pig in mud.

IT'S NOT THE THREE LITTLE PIGS

From the It's Not a Fairy Tale series , Vol. 4

It’s good to embrace change.

Although an unseen narrator attempts to tell an accustomed version of “The Three Little Pigs”—here named Alan, Alfred, and Alvin Albert—their younger sister, Alison, wants to get in on the action because she’s a natural storyteller. The narrator grudgingly allows Alison to tag along, but her added bits of flavor and the unexpected personalities of her brothers soon send the story off its traditional tracks and into hilarious hijinks. For example, Alan’s love of building allows him to design a functional house made of plastic drinking straws, Alfred’s stick house is actually constructed by Alan because Alfred’s clearly a star and not stage crew, and Alvin’s shacking up in a pumpkin behind Cinderella’s castle because he’s…not the crispiest piece of bacon on the plate. Alison’s quick thinking leads the brothers to be one step ahead of the wandering wolf. When the narrator hits their limit, a conversation with Alison proves that collaboration can lead to unexpected but wonderful results. The story flows well, accompanied by energetic cartoon art, and the choice to color-code the speech bubbles of each character (and the text of the narrator vs. Alison) ensures readers will be able to follow the snappy dialogue. Those who love to make up their own stories will be inspired, and readers who march to the beats of their own drums will be delighted. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Will leave readers as happy as a pig in mud. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-3243-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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