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. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014


Alert readers will find the implicit morals: know your audience, mostly, but also never underestimate the power of “rock”...

The theme of persistence (for better or worse) links four tales of magic, trickery, and near disasters.

Lachenmeyer freely borrows familiar folkloric elements, subjecting them to mildly comical twists. In the nearly wordless “Hip Hop Wish,” a frog inadvertently rubs a magic lamp and finds itself saddled with an importunate genie eager to shower it with inappropriate goods and riches. In the title tale, an increasingly annoyed music-hating witch transforms a persistent minstrel into a still-warbling cow, horse, sheep, goat, pig, duck, and rock in succession—then is horrified to catch herself humming a tune. Athesius the sorcerer outwits Warthius, a rival trying to steal his spells via a parrot, by casting silly ones in Ig-pay Atin-lay in the third episode, and in the finale, a painter’s repeated efforts to create a flattering portrait of an ogre king nearly get him thrown into a dungeon…until he suddenly understands what an ogre’s idea of “flattering” might be. The narratives, dialogue, and sound effects leave plenty of elbow room in Blocker’s big, brightly colored panels for the expressive animal and human(ish) figures—most of the latter being light skinned except for the golden genie, the blue ogre, and several people of color in the “Sorcerer’s New Pet.”

Alert readers will find the implicit morals: know your audience, mostly, but also never underestimate the power of “rock” music. (Graphic short stories. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59643-750-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019


From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

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

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. 10, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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