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Poor Jonathan York, condemned to newfound self-confidence and awed listeners wherever he goes.

A night in the swamp converts a mild-mannered clerk into a wily yarn spinner in this hair-raising tribute to the life-changing power of stories.

In his debut, Merritt shows both a knack for evocative phrasing—“evening shadows had sidled in like predators seeking out the sick animals in a herd”—and a deft hand at crafting flamboyantly icky monsters in creepy settings. He sends his nerdy-looking protagonist into the murky gloom of Halfrock Swamp, where the price for a room at the only shelter, rickety Cankerbury Inn, is a story. A story? Jonathan York has none to tell. None, that is, until he’s cast out into the night and into the clutches of the extraordinarily toothy West Bleekport Gang, then swallowed by the dreaded Bogglemyre (to be ejected “with one great phlegm-rattling belch…like a human loogie”). Proving increasingly quick both of wit and feet, he escapes the terror-scenting Fear’im Gnott and numerous other hazards on the way back to the inn and, one yarn later, a well-earned night’s sleep. “Time will take many things from you,” the innkeeper declares, but “you’ll always have your story.” The atmospheric drawings not only offer an array of luxuriantly grotesque swamp residents to ogle, but sometimes even take over for the legibly hand-lettered narrative by expanding into wordless sequences and side tales.

Poor Jonathan York, condemned to newfound self-confidence and awed listeners wherever he goes. (Graphic fantasy. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4494-7100-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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The dream phantasms of a high-spirited narrator intersect, even crowd, reality, but the stream-of-consciousness text makes for a rambling, radically personal tale. Playful images of a stuffed lion, trampoline, purple shoes, and a cat named Pine-Cone take hold in a young girl’s imagination, despite her “old” mother who makes her go to bed when she’d rather “stay up early” and a big sister with a cranky disposition. At home, she likes counting flea bites and pretending to be a worm, but is afraid of the dark and going to Grade One. The second half of the book takes off in a separate first-day-of school direction. Wild dreams precede the big day, which includes bullies on the playground and instant friend Chelsea. The childlike articulations of the text are endearing, but not quite of universal interest, and don’t add up to a compelling story; children may more readily warm to Gay’s illustrations, which include a dreamlike flying cat, a menacing hot dog, and an uproarious stuffed toy looming over everyday domestic scenes. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 1999

ISBN: 1-55143-107-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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Opening episodes of a comic-book series created by an American teacher in Japan take a leap into chapter-book format, with only partial success. Resembling—in occasional illustrations—a button-eyed, juvenile Olive Oyl, Akiko, 10, is persuaded by a pair of aliens named Bip and Bop to climb out her high-rise bedroom’s window for a trip to M&M-shaped Planet Smoo, where Prince Fropstoppit has been kidnapped by widely feared villainness Alia Rellaport. Along with an assortment of contentious sidekicks, including brainy Mr. Beeba, Akiko battles Sky Pirates and video-game-style monsters in prolonged scenes of cartoony violence, displaying resilience, courage, and leadership ability, but not getting very far in her rescue attempt; in fact, the story cuts off so abruptly, with so little of the quest completed, and at a lull in the action to boot, that readers expecting a self-contained (forget complete) story are likely to feel cheated. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-32724-2

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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