A less-is-more philosophy might have been employed to better advantage with only one style of illustration and less emphasis...

SCHOOL FOR PRINCES

STORIES FROM THE PANCHATANTRA

Employing a series of newly created stories in combination with five traditional tales to reveal the Panchatantra’s themes, the author hopes to entice children to read these ancient Indian fables.

Three arrogant princes change their tune in six short months as a sage uses stories to teach them the art of ruling. These fables have been introduced to people of all classes for generations to spread ideas of wisdom, kindness, friendship and unity, and self-control, while still awakening listeners to the possibility of treachery from old enemies. Didactic in nature, the stories still hold up, but contemporary listeners and readers may be put off by the pompous language of “The Preamble: the Princes Who Wouldn’t Learn” and the first frame story, “The Fighter Kite.” They will be caught up in the stories as the doves are “Caught in the Fowler’s Net,” the first fable retold. Gavin gives an introduction to the Panchatantra, but it's too bad she did not provide sources so interested readers could search out tales not included here. The illustrations take two forms: ethereal mixed-media pictures that combine pencil, oil pastels, acrylic and Photoshop in the frame stories and looser, simpler, bolder images of the animals in the fables.

A less-is-more philosophy might have been employed to better advantage with only one style of illustration and less emphasis on the stories about the princes, but the fables remain eminently discussable.   (Folklore. 8-11)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-84507-990-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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

THE SINGING ROCK & OTHER BRAND-NEW FAIRY TALES

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 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs.

WAYSIDE SCHOOL BENEATH THE CLOUD OF DOOM

Rejoice! 25 years later, Wayside School is still in session, and the children in Mrs. Jewls’ 30th-floor classroom haven’t changed a bit.

The surreal yet oddly educational nature of their misadventures hasn’t either. There are out-and-out rib ticklers, such as a spelling lesson featuring made-up words and a determined class effort to collect 1 million nail clippings. Additionally, mean queen Kathy steps through a mirror that turns her weirdly nice and she discovers that she likes it, a four-way friendship survives a dumpster dive after lost homework, and Mrs. Jewls makes sure that a long-threatened “Ultimate Test” allows every student to show off a special talent. Episodic though the 30 new chapters are, there are continuing elements that bind them—even to previous outings, such as the note to an elusive teacher Calvin has been carrying since Sideways Stories From Wayside School (1978) and finally delivers. Add to that plenty of deadpan dialogue (“Arithmetic makes my brain numb,” complains Dameon. “That’s why they’re called ‘numb-ers,’ ” explains D.J.) and a wild storm from the titular cloud that shuffles the school’s contents “like a deck of cards,” and Sachar once again dishes up a confection as scrambled and delicious as lunch lady Miss Mush’s improvised “Rainbow Stew.” Diversity is primarily conveyed in the illustrations.

Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296538-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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