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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The artist’s fans might key in, but most young readers will be left in the dark.


When your computer powers down, the little “dot” is off-duty. You don’t think it just sits there, do you?

In this tipsy flight from Steadman, originally published overseas in 2000, the tidy dot on the first page is quickly transformed into mad splotches of black sporting googly eyes. It zooms through cyberspace to have tea—or, rather ink (“I LOVE INK!”)—with “my friend the Duchess of Amalfi,” and then goes off to spatter the besieging Duke of Bogshott and his white-uniformed army. Serving largely as an excuse for the illustrator to wield pen and brush ever more ferociously across a series of spreads, this free-associative plotline culminates with an invitation to attend the wedding of the duke and duchess as “Best Dot” (“I was so excited I made a mess on her carpet”) and a quick return home: “And here I am, ready to work for you again—dot dot dot.” As a clever riff on the internet, this doesn’t hold a pixel to Randi Zuckerberg and Joel Berger’s Dot. (2013) or Goodnight iPad by “Ann Droid” (2011), and the illustrator’s whacked-out mite isn’t going to take young readers on the sort of imagination-stretching artistic rides that Peter Reynolds’ The Dot (2003) or Hervé Tullet’s Press Here (2011) offer. But it does at least dispense exuberantly unrestrained permission to paint outside the lines.

The artist’s fans might key in, but most young readers will be left in the dark. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-56792-520-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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“Do fairies exist? The answer is a definite, energetic, resounding and unquestionable Yes.” Suggesting that anyone who has ever felt inexplicably grumpy, happy, scatterbrained, loving or giggly has been influenced by a particular kind of fairy, Carretero proceeds to catalog fairy types, habitats (country fairies have “hot pollen for breakfast” and do “complicated yoga exercises”) and yearly celebrations. An album at the end provides six pages of fairy types (kissy-kissy, bubbly, brainy—in glasses, natch—etc.), and the book concludes with a few fairy activities. Showing a fondness for bright flowers and checkerboard patterns, she illustrates the tour with luminous watercolor scenes featuring gatherings of wide-eyed winged girls (all fairies being “half girl and half insect”) with extra-long pipestem limbs flitting gracefully about a range of urban and rural settings. Next to Sally Gardner’s more clever and comprehensive Fairy Catalogue (2001) this comes off as sweet fare, but thin—and the single-page multicultural fairy gallery includes some stereotyping, with a German fairy identified by the sausage at the end of her wand and an omnibus “Oriental” fairy next to others from specific countries. Like its diminutive subjects, easy to miss. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-84-937814-9-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Cuento de Luz

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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