Fans of both paranormal characters and ballet will like this; others should stick with a traditional interpretation of the...

ZOMBELINA DANCES THE NUTCRACKER

From the Zombelina series

Young Zombelina wins the part of Clara in The Nutcracker, but her Grandpa Phantom causes problems during a performance.

Zombelina is the only zombie girl in the cast of The Nutcracker. Her best friend, Lizzie, is cast in the chorus, but the girls support each other and remain friends. Zombelina’s grandfather haunts the theater, and during a performance he alters the lighting so the bones of all the dancers show through their costumes. It’s not clear what the exact paranormal effect is here—magical paralysis? Temporary electrocution? Only Grandpa Phantom knows for sure. Zombelina asks Lizzie to take over her part so the young zombie can deal with her grandfather backstage. The switch is effected by Zombelina’s actual removal of her legs, which she lends to Lizzie for the rest of the performance. Lizzie is supposed to tuck her legs up in her costume and dance on Zombelina’s legs, but the mechanics of this switch aren’t clear or believable. The performance ends with Zombelina back on stage with the cast for a standing ovation—and one of Zombelina’s legs on the loose. There are some funny zombie-themed jokes woven into the story, and Zombelina is an intriguing character, but there are too many leaps in logic in the plot. Colored-pencil illustrations give the green-faced Zombelina personality, and Idle does a fine job with the ballet positions and complex stage scenes.

Fans of both paranormal characters and ballet will like this; others should stick with a traditional interpretation of the holiday classic. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-6196-3640-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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