A jewel box for lovers of stories, filled with riddles and allusions that will test, but not daunt, even younger readers.

THE RIDDLEMASTER

Three children board a ferry to a nearby island—but to pay the fare must answer seven riddles posed by a boatload of strangely familiar creatures.

The first is easy enough—“What do you have to keep when you give it?”—but they get harder. As Anouk, Ben, and Cara fumble toward solutions, the trio of Bears, the Wolf, the Beast, and the other toothy passengers begin to press forward hungrily. “What’s the treasure you can keep and share?” is the seventh riddle, posed by the cowled, skeletally thin Riddlemaster who had led the children aboard. When they correctly answer—“Is it a story?”—they triumphantly debark onto an island of…books, where they are greeted by a host of friends from world literature. Veteran storysmith Crossley-Holland gives the boat a tree of words for a mast and weaves story-related figures and symbols (plus occasional hints for the riddles) into his spare narrative. Jorisch casts the children as ambiguous in age, idiosyncratically Western of dress, and, respectively, Inuit or East Asian, dark-skinned, and light-skinned. He also captures the tale’s atmospherically mysterious tone by filling his scenes with such playful or quirky details as a woman peaceably eating her lunch on a bench of whale (or sea monster) vertebrae, a Beast that could easily double as a Wild Thing, surreal creatures with human faces, and finally an island landscape strewn with letters and enticingly half-open volumes.

A jewel box for lovers of stories, filled with riddles and allusions that will test, but not daunt, even younger readers. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-926890-11-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tradewind Books

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure.

THE PIRATE PIG

It’s not truffles but doubloons that tickle this porcine wayfarer’s fancy.

Funke and Meyer make another foray into chapter-book fare after Emma and the Blue Genie (2014). Here, mariner Stout Sam and deckhand Pip eke out a comfortable existence on Butterfly Island ferrying cargo to and fro. Life is good, but it takes an unexpected turn when a barrel washes ashore containing a pig with a skull-and-crossbones pendant around her neck. It soon becomes clear that this little piggy, dubbed Julie, has the ability to sniff out treasure—lots of it—in the sea. The duo is pleased with her skills, but pride goeth before the hog. Stout Sam hands out some baubles to the local children, and his largess attracts the unwanted attention of Barracuda Bill and his nasty minions. Now they’ve pignapped Julie, and it’s up to the intrepid sailors to save the porker and their own bacon. The succinct word count meets the needs of kids looking for early adventure fare. The tale is slight, bouncy, and amusing, though Julie is never the piratical buccaneer the book’s cover seems to suggest. Meanwhile, Meyer’s cheery watercolors are as comfortable diagramming the different parts of a pirate vessel as they are rendering the dread pirate captain himself.

A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37544-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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Eeney meeney miney moe, catch this series before it goes! (Adventure. 7-9)

DANGER! TIGER CROSSING

From the Fantastic Frame series , Vol. 1

Two kids get up close and personal with some great works of art in this first in a new series.

Tiger Brooks is used to his little sister’s fantastical stories. So when the top-hatted orange pig she describes turns out to be not only real, but a next-door neighbor, Tiger enlists the help of his kooky new friend, Luna, to investigate. It turns out the pig works for the reclusive painter Viola Dots. Years ago a magical picture frame swallowed up her only son, and she’s searched for him in artworks ever since. When Tiger’s tinkering starts the magic up again, he and Luna are sucked into a reproduction of Henri Rousseau’s Surprised! or Tiger in a Tropical Storm, hungry predator and all. After meeting and failing to rescue Viola’s son in this adventure, the series is set up for the intrepid pair to infiltrate other classic paintings in the future. Backmatter provides information on the real Rousseau and his life. Oliver keeps the plot itself snappy and peppy. While there are few surprises, there’s also an impressive lack of lag time. This is helped in no small part by Kallis’ art, which goes from pen-and-ink drawings to full-blown color images once the kids cross over into the painting. Tiger is a white boy, and Luna is a dark-haired Latina.

Eeney meeney miney moe, catch this series before it goes! (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-448-48087-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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