Handsomely turned out, as can be expected…but Pinkney himself notes that he studied over 20 illustrated editions of the...

PUSS IN BOOTS

A retold but intact version of the familiar tale, given the customary early-18th-century setting in illustrations crowded with figures and period detail.

Pinkney retells the tale in plain, measured language: “ ‘Have some boots made for me,’ [the cat] said, ‘and give me a strong sack with a drawstring. I just might be able to help you find your fortune.’ ” With a few minor changes or additions (the ogre, for instance, is a “rich and evil sorcerer” depicted as human), the story puts passive young Benjamin into the paws of a feline impresario who orchestrates his rise to fame, fortune and a royal wedding to the equally inert Princess Daniella. Identified in the author’s afterword as a “black-and-white silver-tabby British shorthair,” the cat cuts a properly self-confident, swashbuckling figure as he inserts himself into a claustrophobically populous royal entourage bursting with sumptuously patterned silks, floating ribbons, airy plumage and ruffles. He goes on to trick the sorcerer in a confrontation (depicted in part in an awkwardly placed gatefold) and to become prime minister. Nor are his adventures over, as a nautical scene on the rear endpaper hints.

Handsomely turned out, as can be expected…but Pinkney himself notes that he studied over 20 illustrated editions of the story before producing one of his own, and he offers nothing particularly fresh. (Picture book/folk tale. 7-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-1642-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS

This is rather a silly story, and I don't believe children will think it particularly funny. A paper hanger and painter finds time on his hands in winter, and spends it in reading of arctic exploration. It is all given reality when he receives a present of a penguin, which makes its nest in the refrigerator on cubes of ice, mates with a lonely penguin from the zoo, and produces a family of penguins which help set the Poppers on their feet.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1938

ISBN: 978-0-316-05843-8

Page Count: 139

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1938

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