CLEOPATRA BONES AND THE GOLDEN CHIMPANZEE

From the Fast and Furry Racers series

A treasure it’s not.

This title about the Fast and Furry Racers sends anthropomorphic dog Cleopatra Bones and other animal characters racing off to find the fabled Golden Chimpanzee.

While busy, cartoon art and labored, rhyming text signal this to be a cute adventure story, readers may balk at various details. For starters, is the canine protagonist’s name an intentional or unintentional play on the name of the 1973 blaxploitation film Cleopatra Jones, starring Tamara Dobson in the title role? Either scenario seems downright odd, at best. So named, Cleopatra finds a treasure map in a temple, and although nowhere does the text name what sort of temple it is, there are symbols that seem to emulate Egyptian hieroglyphics. She shares the map with other animal characters in a scene at a museum, and they all go off in pursuit of the Golden Chimpanzee. Some may wonder about the underlying ethics of this treasure hunt. In an era of discussion and debate about appropriation, exploitation, and repatriation in the museum field, this lighthearted book runs roughshod over such concerns. The animals’ race brings them to a large stone chimpanzee sculpture hidden in a jungle, which they destroy. “And from the broken body parts pours a waterfall of gold.” The animals divide the gold among themselves; that’s the dubious happily-ever-after conclusion.

A treasure it’s not. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61067-802-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

CINDERELLA

From the Once Upon a World series

A nice but not requisite purchase.

A retelling of the classic fairy tale in board-book format and with a Mexican setting.

Though simplified for a younger audience, the text still relates the well-known tale: mean-spirited stepmother, spoiled stepsisters, overworked Cinderella, fairy godmother, glass slipper, charming prince, and, of course, happily-ever-after. What gives this book its flavor is the artwork. Within its Mexican setting, the characters are olive-skinned and dark-haired. Cultural references abound, as when a messenger comes carrying a banner announcing a “FIESTA” in beautiful papel picado. Cinderella is the picture of beauty, with her hair up in ribbons and flowers and her typically Mexican many-layered white dress. The companion volume, Snow White, set in Japan and illustrated by Misa Saburi, follows the same format. The simplified text tells the story of the beautiful princess sent to the forest by her wicked stepmother to be “done away with,” the dwarves that take her in, and, eventually, the happily-ever-after ending. Here too, what gives the book its flavor is the artwork. The characters wear traditional clothing, and the dwarves’ house has the requisite shoji screens, tatami mats and cherry blossoms in the garden. The puzzling question is, why the board-book presentation? Though the text is simplified, it’s still beyond the board-book audience, and the illustrations deserve full-size books.

A nice but not requisite purchase. (Board book/fairy tale. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7915-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

THE GRUFFALO

The action of this rhymed and humorous tale centers upon a mouse who "took a stroll/through the deep dark wood./A fox saw the mouse/and the mouse looked good." The mouse escapes being eaten by telling the fox that he is on his way to meet his friend the gruffalo (a monster of his imagination), whose favorite food is roasted fox. The fox beats a hasty retreat. Similar escapes are in store for an owl and a snake; both hightail it when they learn the particulars: tusks, claws, terrible jaws, eyes orange, tongue black, purple prickles on its back. When the gruffalo suddenly materializes out of the mouse's head and into the forest, the mouse has to think quick, declaring himself inedible as the "scariest creature in the deep dark wood," and inviting the gruffalo to follow him to witness the effect he has on the other creatures. When the gruffalo hears that the mouse's favorite food is gruffalo crumble, he runs away. It's a fairly innocuous tale, with twists that aren't sharp enough and treachery that has no punch. Scheffler's funny scenes prevent the suspense from culminating; all his creatures, predator and prey, are downright lovable. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8037-2386-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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