A fine addition to the fairy-tale shelves. (Picture book/fairy tale. 4-8)

HANSEL & GRETEL

Hobbie’s stripped-down retelling of “Hansel and Gretel” maintains a high degree of fidelity to the classic fairy tale, while her illustrations reveal a rich array of artistic influences on her visual interpretation of the story.

Befitting the tragic beginnings of the tale, Hobbie eschews the pastoral, light style she’s known for in her eponymous commercial illustrations and in the Toot and Puddle books. Eerie, dark landscapes abound, and shades of German expressionism are apparent in the hollow, gaunt faces of the woodcutter and his wife, while the children’s waiflike but spritely depictions bring to mind the earthy style of illustrator Brock Cole. The witch, meanwhile, is white of face, round of form, and spindly-limbed, making her reminiscent of the wicked crones found in Anthony Browne’s and Lisbeth Zwerger’s retellings of the same tale. This is not to say that Hobbie’s work is derivative, and given her usual style, it’s remarkable that her strongest pictures are those that indulge in the dark and dreary. There are also some marvelous, cheery compositions, including the one depicting the children’s reunion with their father. Here, he stands before a white sheet hanging on the line, creating a natural bright highlight behind his open arms as his children run toward him.

A fine addition to the fairy-tale shelves. (Picture book/fairy tale. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-07017-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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