Fourteen international stories embrace their gore.

Poet Campbell directly addresses readers in the foreword to this collection of grisly tales from around the world, explaining that, once upon a time, these “brilliant, horrible tales” were well known. But people altered them and gave them “ ‘happily ever afters’ where nothing really awful happened and, well, a lot of them became boring.” This collection of unsourced stories intentionally avoids the Disney-fication of folklore: A Chinese girl is mummified by the skin of a horse that wants to marry her; a greedy Russian prince marries a button-eyed cuckoo resembling his sister; Korean children are tricked into eating their parents. These tales are disturbing—and satisfyingly so—but in ways that might make it hard to find an appropriate audience. Readers who are ready for stories of wine (or could it be clotted blood?) and seven wives impregnated at once might feel like they’re too old for a collection of fairy tales, although certainly many gore-loving middle-grade readers will devour these. Atmospheric illustrations pair effectively with the text, and Campbell departs from tradition to include overtly feminist stories as well as gay and lesbian romance without a hint of societal condemnation. An afterword explains more about the author’s perspective and reasons behind some of the liberties she takes with the original stories. Characters are presented as racially diverse.

Creepy and progressive. (Folklore. 9-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65258-9

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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Next to the exhilarating renditions of Rosemary Sutcliff (The Wanderings of Odysseus, 1996) and Geraldine McCaughrean...


An anemic retelling of the epic is paired to crabbed, ugly illustrations.

Breaking for occasional glimpses back to Penelope’s plight in Ithaca, Cross relates Odysseus’ travels in a linear narrative that begins with his departure for Troy but skips quickly over the war’s events to get to the sack of the city of the Cicones and events following. Along with being careless about continuity (Odysseus’ men are “mad with thirst” on one page and a few pages later swilling wine that they had all the time, for instance), the reteller’s language is inconsistent in tone. It is sprinkled with the requisite Homeric references to the “wine-dark sea” and Dawn’s rosy fingers but also breaks occasionally into a modern-sounding idiom: “ ‘What’s going on?’ Athene said, looking around at the rowdy suitors.” Packer decorates nearly every spread with either lacy figures silhouetted in black or gold or coarsely brushed paintings depicting crouching, contorted humans, gods and monsters with, generally, chalky skin, snaggled teeth, beer bellies or other disfigurements. The overall effect is grim, mannered and remote.

Next to the exhilarating renditions of Rosemary Sutcliff (The Wanderings of Odysseus, 1996) and Geraldine McCaughrean (Odysseus, 2004), this version makes bland reading, and the contorted art is, at best a poor match. (afterword, maps) (Illustrated classic. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4791-9

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Nothing like shared brushes with horrible, agonizing death to draw seemingly incompatible characters together, right?


Chills and thrills ensue when long-separated siblings find themselves custodians of a very special funeral home and cemetery.

Returning to the old mansion deep in the Pennsylvania woods from which her fun-loving if ne’er-do-well dad had spirited her years before, newly orphaned 13-year-old Molly Grim is bummed by the cold reception she gets from her likewise parentless, tightly wound 18-year-old brother, Dustin Ashe, but stoked to discover that she’s inherited a half interest in Mothstead, a final resting place for monsters—or “nonstandard citizens,” to use the less pejorative term. Sparks fly at first, but in battling their uncle Gordo, who turns out to be even more demonic than his everyday persona as a slovenly accident attorney would suggest, the two ultimately discover that they’re good for one another. Playing to strengths demonstrated in his many comics and tales for older audiences, not only is Wendig a dab hand at concocting extremely creepy critters, but here he also pulls together a secondary cast of quarrelsome but supportive allies for the beleaguered teens, featuring a (generally) low-key vampire, a mercurial fox spirit (“Cat software loaded onto dog hardware,” as one observer puts it), and other slyly tweaked supernatural grown-ups. Most of the cast presents White; one supporting character is Black, and one is cued as Latinx.

Nothing like shared brushes with horrible, agonizing death to draw seemingly incompatible characters together, right? (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-70623-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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