Strange and disconcerting.

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LEONCE AND LENA

A retelling of an early-19th-century German satirical play in which royalty, mistaken identity, rebellion and angst all play out in a fairy-tale setting requires leaps of comprehension beyond its intended audience.

Prince Leonce and Princess Lena have never met but share a sense of dissatisfaction with their places in life. When it is decreed that they must marry, they separately attempt to escape their fates. But a chance encounter at an inn results in love at first sight. Meanwhile, back at the castle, the King (Leonce’s father) has prepared for the marriage celebrations, and thanks to the machinations of Leonce’s confidant Valerio, the nuptials proceed with disguises and surprises. Amann reimagines the original work, employing wildly varying language and syntax. There are flowery, esoteric descriptions, metaphoric allusions and contemplative moments, along with comedic pronouncements and some modern twists. Zwerger’s imaginative, watercolor-and-collage illustrations incorporate changing perspectives and are filled with unexpected and delightful touches that shed some light on the confusion inherent in the text. Young readers for whom the work is evidently intended will be more puzzled than intrigued (the publisher is recommending an age range of 4-8). It might be more successful with an older audience that has adult guidance, although many adults will be hard-pressed to explain the call for a workless society at the conclusion.

Strange and disconcerting. (biographical material, bibliography) (Play. 10-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4141-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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A deft mix of chills and chuckles, not quite as sideways as Wayside School but in the same district.

A FRIENDLY TOWN THAT'S ALMOST ALWAYS BY THE OCEAN!

From the Secrets of Topsea series , Vol. 1

A fifth-grader struggles to fit in after he and his recently widowed mother move to a decidedly oddball new town.

As if the seemingly infinite pier, the lighthouse in the middle of town, and the beach teeming with enigmatic cats aren’t strange enough, Davy Jones discovers that his school locker has been relocated to the deep end of the swimming pool, his lunchtime fries are delivered by a “spudzooka,” and no one seems to be able to get his name right. On the other hand, his classmates welcome him, and in next to no time he’s breaking into an abandoned arcade to play pinball against a ghost, helping track down a pet pig gone missing on Gravity Maintenance Day, and like adventures that, often as not, take sinister swerves before edging back to the merely peculiar. Point-of-view duties pass freely from character to character, and chapters are punctuated with extracts from the Topsea School Gazette (“Today’s Seaweed Level: Medium-high and feisty”), bulletins on such topics as the safe handling of rubber ducks, and background notes on, for instance, the five local seasons, giving the narrative a pleasantly loose-jointed feel. Davy presents as white, but several other central cast members are specifically described as dark- or light-skinned and are so depicted in the frequent line drawings; one has two moms.

A deft mix of chills and chuckles, not quite as sideways as Wayside School but in the same district. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-00005-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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CRYSTAL CADETS

From the Crystal Cadets series , Vol. 1

On her birthday, a teenager learns that she is one of the Crystal Cadets, a textbook group of young, magic-wielding heroines charged with saving the world from vague, clichéd darkness.

This series opener introduces Zoe to the other Crystal Cadets: Jasmine, Olivia, Gwen, Liz, Milena, and a sixth, who is used as a plot twist. They ride fabulous creatures like winged horses and giant butterflies and use magical tools to fight off creepy people with black eyes. Zoe seems only momentarily fazed to find her parents evidently possessed before being whisked away. Glib dialogue makes the book feel trite and superficial. “Nonny, nonny boo boo. You can’t catch me!” sings a young cadet as she faces off against what looks like a toothed shadow. Attempts at puns create cringe-worthy moments: “Looks like the crystal's out of the bag!” The story was originally published as a digital comic series, and Toole’s writing offers mostly choppy transitions and is further hampered by poor worldbuilding, logic, and back story. In what feels like a halfhearted stab at grounding the story, Olivia explains, “The darkness has been around forever. It feeds on bad stuff, like fear and greed and bad manners.” If both story and illustrations remind readers of Sailor Moon, that is about par for the course. O’Neill’s depictions are fair and in the vein of manga comics, though at times they look depthless.

Skip and pass. (Graphic fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63140-431-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Roar Comics/Lion Forge

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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