Subtly untraditional, with lovely prose.

READ REVIEW

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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An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education.

IF I BUILT A SCHOOL

A young visionary describes his ideal school: “Perfectly planned and impeccably clean. / On a scale, 1 to 10, it’s more like 15!”

In keeping with the self-indulgently fanciful lines of If I Built a Car (2005) and If I Built a House (2012), young Jack outlines in Seussian rhyme a shiny, bright, futuristic facility in which students are swept to open-roofed classes in clear tubes, there are no tests but lots of field trips, and art, music, and science are afterthoughts next to the huge and awesome gym, playground, and lunchroom. A robot and lots of cute puppies (including one in a wheeled cart) greet students at the door, robotically made-to-order lunches range from “PB & jelly to squid, lightly seared,” and the library’s books are all animated popups rather than the “everyday regular” sorts. There are no guards to be seen in the spacious hallways—hardly any adults at all, come to that—and the sparse coed student body features light- and dark-skinned figures in roughly equal numbers, a few with Asian features, and one in a wheelchair. Aside from the lack of restrooms, it seems an idyllic environment—at least for dog-loving children who prefer sports and play over quieter pursuits.

An all-day sugar rush, putting the “fun” back into, er, education. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55291-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the...

CHARLIE BUMPERS VS. THE TEACHER OF THE YEAR

From the Charlie Bumpers series , Vol. 1

Charlie Bumpers is doomed. The one teacher he never wanted in the whole school turns out to be his fourth-grade teacher.

Charlie recalls third grade, when he accidentally hit the scariest teacher in the whole school with his sneaker. “I know all about you, Charlie Bumpers,” she says menacingly on the first day of fourth grade. Now, in addition to all the hardships of starting school, he has gotten off on the wrong foot with her. Charlie’s dry and dramatic narrative voice clearly reveals the inner life of a 9-year-old—the glass is always half empty, especially in light of a series of well-intentioned events gone awry. It’s quite a litany: “Hitting Mrs. Burke in the head with the sneaker. The messy desk. The swinging on the door. The toilet paper. And now this—the shoe on the roof.” Harley has teamed once again with illustrator Gustavson (Lost and Found, 2012) to create a real-life world in which a likable kid must face the everyday terrors of childhood: enormous bullies, looming teachers and thick gym coaches with huge pointing fingers. Into this series opener, Harley magically weaves the simple lesson that people, even teachers, can surprise you.

Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the sarcasm of Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-56145-732-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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