A thoughtful, exciting work with pleasing rhyme and rhythm; a nice addition to Arthurian literature for kids.

TALES OF KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS

In rhyming verse, this debut children’s book tells how the legendary King Arthur, Sir Gawain, and Sir Lancelot began their journeys.

Every hero needs an origin story, and Bloom’s debut children’s book offers those of a sovereign and two knights of the Round Table. The basics are familiar: the sword in the stone, Arthur’s discovery of his kingship, King Lot’s opposition and his son Gawain’s choice to defy his father and serve Arthur, the forming of the Round Table and its “new rules for knights,” and Lancelot’s battle against a giant before he joins Arthur’s men. Each section centers on a personal test of courage. After pulling the sword from the stone, for example, young Arthur—moments ago only a squire—must face skeptical, battle-hardened warriors, claim the crown, and remind them they vowed to serve his father, the king: “Now as his son I call on you / To live up to your word! / Now kneel, and take your oaths again / Before my royal sword!” It takes moral courage, too, for Gawain to stand by his oath and defend Arthur; he’s also thoughtful about the destructiveness of war. And although Lancelot has never been in a real fight and wonders whether he’ll be scared, he fights bravely in a long, hard-fought battle, even when his shield is split. Bloom keeps the story moving along briskly, bringing in plenty of emotion and excitement along with musings on oaths, loyalty, and courage. The battle scene with Lancelot, the giant, and other knights is particularly dramatic and clearly told. The verse, which mostly scans well, is generally written in quatrains rhyming ABCB, though the occasional double rhymes of ABAB stanzas are effective, as when Lancelot encounters an enemy soldier: “But he looked up and spotted me / With my spear aimed at his face / And he decided he’d rather be / In some other, safer, place.” The book lacks illustrations, though, which would have added another dimension to the text.

A thoughtful, exciting work with pleasing rhyme and rhythm; a nice addition to Arthurian literature for kids.

Pub Date: June 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4809-4225-7

Page Count: 66

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face.

THE BAD GUYS

From the Bad Guys series , Vol. 1

Four misunderstood villains endeavor to turn over a new leaf…or a new rap sheet in Blabey's frenzied romp.

As readers open the first page of this early chapter book, Mr. Wolf is right there to greet them, bemoaning his reputation. "Just because I've got BIG POINTY TEETH and RAZOR-SHARP CLAWS and I occasionally like to dress up like an OLD LADY, that doesn't mean… / … I'm a BAD GUY." To prove this very fact, Mr. Wolf enlists three equally slandered friends into the Good Guys Club: Mr. Snake (aka the Chicken Swallower), Mr. Piranha (aka the Butt Biter), and Mr. Shark (aka Jaws). After some convincing from Mr. Wolf, the foursome sets off determined to un-smirch their names (and reluctantly curbing their appetites). Although these predators find that not everyone is ready to be at the receiving end of their helpful efforts, they use all their Bad Guy know-how to manage a few hilarious good deeds. Blabey has hit the proverbial nail on the head, kissed it full on the mouth, and handed it a stick of Acme dynamite. With illustrations that startle in their manic comedy and deadpan direct address and with a narrative that follows four endearingly sardonic characters trying to push past (sometimes successfully) their fear-causing natures, this book instantly joins the classic ranks of Captain Underpants and The Stinky Cheese Man.

We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-91240-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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