Alas, this one isn’t a swan after all.


There are good reasons some of Andersen’s tales have gone out of vogue.

Lewis and Chichester Clark attempt a fresh take on selections of Andersen’s literary fairy tales, endeavoring to reaffirm the classic status of such familiar tales as “The Princess and the Pea,” “The Little Match Girl” and “The Nightingale” while at the same time reviving more obscure stories, such as “The Happy Family,” “The Money Box Pig” and “The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep.” The latter tale has much in common with the better-known (and better) “Steadfast Tin Soldier,” but it pales in comparison due to its use of outmoded terms such as a reference to “an old Chinaman, a Mandarin [figurine] who could nod his head.” The titular shepherdess, meanwhile, embodies the very essence of insipid feminine helplessness, making it hard to see why the chimney sweep fancies her at all. This story isn’t the solitary weak spot in the collection—downright odd (not intriguing, but alienating) plots are unlikely to demand repeat readings, and the tired story of a patriarch marrying off a girl is revisited to absurd extremes in “The Jumping Competition.” Meanwhile, more familiar tales are watered-down, at best. Chichester Clark’s soft, whimsical pictures do punctuate humorous elements of the stories, and a picture of flowers dancing in the nighttime is a highlight of the book. Reteller Antonia Barber and illustrator Margaret Chamberlain attempt a similar update of nine mostly familiar Tales from Grimm, publishing simultaneously, with greater success.

Alas, this one isn’t a swan after all. (author’s note) (Fairy tales. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-84780-510-2

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.


From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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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...


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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