Unnerving and uncanny—just as it should be.

THE NUTCRACKER AND THE MOUSE KING

THE GRAPHIC NOVEL

A retelling breathes new life into E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Christmas classic.

Every Christmas Eve, mysterious Godfather Drosselmeier brings Marie Stahlbaum and her brother, Fritz, handmade gifts. Marie quickly discovers a human-shaped nutcracker under the Christmas tree and immediately becomes enamored. That night, she stumbles upon Drosselmeier performing a magic ritual that brings a huge, fuchsia mouse king into her home to finish a long-fought battle with her toys, led by her beloved—and now quite alive—nutcracker. Marie falls ill after she rescues him, and each day of her recovery, Drosselmeier spins a bedside tale of a princess cursed to transform into a human nutcracker and the astronomer’s son who saves her by embodying the curse himself. Each night, Marie makes a sacrifice to the terrifying mouse king, who demands payment for sparing her beloved nutcracker. A finale that inextricably weaves these two stories together leaves readers to determine for themselves the line between fantasy and reality. Andrewson makes smart choices with her adaptation, refocusing the story on passionate and empathetic Marie, who has the most personality of all the fairy tale–esque characters. Her distinctive illustration style is well matched to Hoffmann’s story, with vivid colors, wavy linework, and exaggerated facial expressions that all reinforce the trippy, unsettling plot. The majority of characters are White-presenting while there is some variety of skin color among secondary and background characters.

Unnerving and uncanny—just as it should be. (author's note) (Graphic fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59643-681-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

From the Keeper of the Lost Cities series , Vol. 1

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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