A joyful, silly tale for the adventurer, boy or girl, young or old: medieval mayhem at its best.

THE SWORD IN THE STOVE

Two chefs solve one big mystery (albeit too late!) in this humorous spoof on the knight-and-dragon tale.

It’s mealtime, but where is Harold? Two cooks wonder about their knightly friend—but readers are in the know. He was last seen racing across the title page, searching for the loo. So onward the pair go until: “Holy haddock!” There’s a sword in the stove. Who could’ve put it there? Pirates? The absurdity builds (and so do the laughs) as the oven yields additional items. The pumpkin-headed chefs, like a classic comedy duo, play off each other, channeling Laurel and Hardy in both physique and demeanor; the author juxtaposes their differences to maximum effect. When the two agree the sword is Harold’s and his fate a dire one, a fiery whoosh interrupts the question of who would do such a thing. A hungry (and adorable-looking) dragon ready for dessert, that’s who! Young readers need not fear, as the last page reveals the chefs and Harold still alive, with a giggle-inducing punch line. Dormer’s illustrations fuel the text with their spontaneity and engaging compositions. His primitive watercolor shapes, expressive pencil marks, and clever use of a limited, warm palette reveal a sophisticated control of the medium. Through both text and art, he offers something for everyone (pirates! Vikings! inventive expletives! silliness!). Brilliantly designed down to a typeface that alludes to the story’s legendary associations, this book establishes itself as thoroughly modern.

A joyful, silly tale for the adventurer, boy or girl, young or old: medieval mayhem at its best. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3167-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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Though the story is simply told, the overall effect is somewhat cryptic, making it a challenge to connect with these...

FREDDIE & GINGERSNAP FIND A CLOUD TO KEEP

From the Freddie & Gingersnap series

Two friends off on an adventure have an unexpected encounter that leads to new discoveries and a sense of satisfaction.

Readers familiar with their eponymous first outing (2014) will remember that Freddie, a skinny green dinosaur with sharp teeth, and Gingersnap, a pink and purple dragon with a bow on her single, straggly hair, overcame their differences to become friends. Newcomers, however, may have a bit more trouble initially figuring out just what kinds of animals they are and why they are tangled together, flying through the sky (courtesy of Gingersnap’s wings) in search of clouds. Straightforward sentences capture their mildly contentious debate about whether anyone can own a cloud. Then suddenly they come upon a hot air balloon with two singing children inside. Mistaking the balloon for a cloud, both are captivated by how friendly and engaging this particular “cloud” is—even more so when the young pilot apparently conjures up a magical thunderstorm. Black outlines and intense colors show up well against the mostly blue backgrounds, while the textures of paper and paint add visual interest. Like its predecessor, this also features a double gatefold midway through; however, this one does little to enhance the slight plot or heighten the atmosphere.

Though the story is simply told, the overall effect is somewhat cryptic, making it a challenge to connect with these characters and their quest. (song lyrics, score [not seen]) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5976-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Sparkly, innocent, feel-good fun for readers needing just a bit of extra support before moving on to chapter books.

SPARKLY NEW FRIENDS

From the Unicorn and Yeti series , Vol. 1

In this new series debut, a yeti and a unicorn bond over sparkles and snow.

While flying over mountains, Unicorn spots the sparkly snow below and decides to take a closer look. Beneath, Yeti spots sparkles too—Unicorn’s! The sparkles get closer and closer until—CRASH!—Unicorn collides with Yeti. Apologies pave the way for a newfound friendship, but Yeti doesn’t see snow as sparkly and thinks Unicorn may be just a “tricky, sparkly horse with a horn.” So Unicorn takes Yeti up into the clouds to see the sparkle Yeti couldn’t see before. Two more stories follow—a grand total of three stand-alone chapters—that further delve into themes of friendship. The comic-book layout is a predictable mix of full-page panels and two to four panel spreads. Unicorn speaks in orange speech bubbles, while Yeti’s are purple. This helps readers decode some fairly complex speech-bubble arrangements, such as when multiple bubbles connect during a long conversation. The (nearly) all-dialogue story is accessible, but the lack of repetitive vocabulary skews it toward more fluent readers. Quintanilla’s distinct color palette mixes warm oranges with cool blues and purples, creating an expressive, inviting cartoon world. The final page includes instructions on how to draw Unicorn as well as a few simple creative prompts.

Sparkly, innocent, feel-good fun for readers needing just a bit of extra support before moving on to chapter books. (Graphic early reader. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-32902-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Acorn/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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