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

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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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This high-wattage debut is a little rough around the edges, but there’s nary a dull moment.

CAT DAD, KING OF THE GOBLINS

A pair of sisters and a froggy sidekick go up against a horde of fungal jungle dwellers in this frantically paced Canadian import.

When Mom transforms Dad into a cat, 10-year-old Luey, her leggy green friend, Phil, and little sister Miri chase him through a closet door and down a jungle path into a maze of tunnels. They manage to rescue their errant parent from the maroon-colored, cat-worshiping goblins that had overrun the garden. (They are not the “mythological” sort, explains Wilson, but sentient mushrooms dressed in towels.) The three put most of their pursuers to flight by rubbing Dad’s fur the wrong way to turn him into a raving, furry maniac (the rest flee at the closet door, screaming “IT’S THE MOM CREATURE! RETREAT!!”). Captured in multiple, sometimes overly small panels of garishly colored cartoon art, the action—not to mention the internal logic—is sometimes hard to follow. Still, dragging along their timorous but canny buddy, the dark-skinned, big-haired sisters dash into danger with commendable vim, and readers will cheer when they come out triumphant on the other side.

This high-wattage debut is a little rough around the edges, but there’s nary a dull moment. (afterword) (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-927668-11-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Koyama Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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