A long but sometimes-delightful illustrated work for young readers.

READ REVIEW

SQUIRE WITH FIRE

A HAPPY DRAGON TALE

In debut author/illustrator Cassis’ children’s book, a 600-year-old family heirloom sparks a grandfather’s story about a squire’s values.

Seven-year-old Mac asks Grandpa about the gold ring he wears, and he explains to her that it’s been handed down through their family for centuries—ever since their ancestors served as squires. Back then, they began training at the age of 7, and if they proved themselves worthy at 14, they received a gold ring. Cassis illustrates Grandpa’s explanations of ancient chivalric traditions with colorful diagrams of a knight’s outfit, explanations of a squire’s stable responsibilities, and information about the family’s ancestor Mackenzie Stewart, a Scottish knight in the service of the legendary Sir Galahad. Grandpa uses tales from the past and the ideals of chivalry to provide Mac with guidance and direction, and the book focuses on the necessity of believing in oneself, treating others with respect, and being helpful and fair. Grandpa also tells Mac that squires aspired to be good friends to others, and to avoid bullying behavior. Overall, this effort is clearly a labor of love, and its heart is in the right place. That said, the text sometimes feels wordy and somewhat didactic. However, kids will likely enjoy a tale that Grandpa spins in the book’s latter half, which features several illustrations of an enormous, marvelously scary green dragon named Spitfire who lives in a dark, smelly cave. The queen sends Sir Galahad to rid the villagers of the dangerous creature, and brave Squire Mackenzie must step up when the dragon breaks Sir Galahad’s arm; however, Squire Mackenzie realizes that the creature is only irritable because it’s suffering from a bad cold. The story ends with a well-handled revelation that Mackenzie Stewart, for whom Mac is named, is female.

A long but sometimes-delightful illustrated work for young readers.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5255-3242-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2020

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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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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