CLIFF HANGER

A disappointing effort from this well-respected pair. Headstrong young Axel defies his father and faces down an impending storm and a challenging climb up what appears to be a sheer rock face to rescue his stranded little dog. So far, so good. Unfortunately, the tension of the text is not well reflected in the illustrations, in which characters resemble plastic action figures, with smooth, molded, pink legs, hands forever frozen in a semi-cupped position, and feet eternally encased in painted-on shoes. Perhaps the lightning-lit images are meant to evoke the stop-frame staccato of a violent storm, but the bone-dry condition of the climb, the fine, fluffy fur of the dog, and their sun-soaked descent on Cathedral Wall would seem to contradict this. Unlikely, too, is the inaction of Axel’s father, Dag, the leader of the Teton Mountains Climbing School and presumably an expert on the pleasures and perils of climbing. Why would an experienced, responsible climber and loving father allow his son to ignore his safe, alternative plan to reach the dog? No explanatory matter is offered to describe or depict the climbing equipment and terminology that figure large in following the storyline, and the illustrations do not make them obvious. With this team and this title, the reader anticipates fine, high adventure and painterly interpretations of environment. Despite its lightweight treatment of what could have been a compelling story, dog-lovers, weather-watchers, and budding adventurers may appreciate this additional purchase. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-000260-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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KNIGHT OWL

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

CAPTAIN AWESOME TO THE RESCUE!

From the Captain Awesome series , Vol. 1

As Captain Awesome would say, this kid is “MI-TEE!” (Fiction. 5-8)

The town of Sunnyview got a little bit safer when 8-year-old Eugene McGillicudy moved in.

Just like his comic-book mentor, Super Dude, Eugene, aka Captain Awesome, is on a one-man mission is to save the world from supervillains, like the nefarious “Queen Stinkypants from Planet Baby.” Just as Eugene suspected, plenty of new supervillains await him at Sunnyview Elementary. Are Meredith Mooney and the mind-reading Ms. Beasley secretly working together to try and force Eugene to reveal his secret identity? Will Principal Brick Foot succeed in throwing Captain Awesome into the “Dungeon of Detention?” Fortunately, Eugene isn’t forced to go it alone. Charlie Thomas Jones, fellow comic-book lover and Super Dude fan, stands ready and willing to help. When the class hamster goes missing, Captain Awesome must don his cape and, with the help of his new best friend, ride to the rescue. Kirby’s funny and engaging third-person narration and O’Connor’s hilarious illustrations make the book easily accessible and enormously appealing, particularly to readers who have recently graduated to chapter books. But it is the quirky, mischievous Eugene that really makes this book special. His energy and humor are contagious, and his dogged commitment to his superhero alter ego is enough to make anyone a believer.  

As Captain Awesome would say, this kid is “MI-TEE!” (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4090-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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