An engaging collection, cast in modern but not anachronistic prose and equally suitable for reading aloud or alone.

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THE DRAGON'S HOARD

STORIES FROM THE VIKING SAGAS

Heroes, monsters, gods, and kings collide in 11 tales retold from ancient sources by a Scottish storyteller.

Battles and slaughter feature in most (though not all) of these exploits. Don opens with the tale of how Fafnir, transformed into a dragon by greed, is killed and closes with a riddle contest in which Odin himself is sent packing. In between, she tells of a warrior who accidently kills his shape-changing lady and protector; the death of the explorer Thorvald, brother of Leif Eiriksson, in what would come to be called North America; and a weary berserker who finds an abandoned baby and exchanges violence for “sleepless nights of teething, the strains of potty training and the many worries of a father.” As she explains in her excellent source notes, she leaves tedious family trees out of her retellings but adds elements to some yarns to suit modern young audiences—such as a captive polar bear who finds its way home from Denmark and how young Grettir the Strong rids a farm of an undead “zombie” by leaving its sliced-off head next to its “buttocks, to break the power of death.” In James’ cartoon illustrations the shaggy, smiling, light-skinned warriors and other human figures look far from ferocious, and even the monsters are decidedly nonthreatening.

An engaging collection, cast in modern but not anachronistic prose and equally suitable for reading aloud or alone. (Folk tales. 8-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-84780-681-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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For Where’s Waldo? graduates who are ready for heavy-duty irony.

SUPER HAPPY MAGIC FOREST

From the Super Happy Magic Forest series

In the full-color world of Super Happy Magic Forest, everyone recognizes what evil looks like…or do they?

This over-the-top happy place with fun, dancing, and picnics every day maintains its positive energy because of three Mystical Crystals of Life. After a two-sentence exposition, readers learn that someone has stolen the crystals, throwing all the forest inhabitants into panic. The five bravest warriors, including the reluctant Blossom, a unicorn, and Trevor, a red-and-white mushroom, go in search of the culprit, only to find in the end that their arduous journey has been for naught. In this debut picture book, Long fills nearly every page with details that will keep young readers engaged and interested: a penguin distraught over losing the frying pan it evidently uses as a cudgel, a gravestone bearing the name of one of the warriors, a headless skeleton preparing to decapitate the clueless Blossom. Some pages will remind readers of the Smurfs’ village—another superhappy place—while others seem to take a page from video game journeys, with many twists and turns. In the end, though, this book that exudes youthfulness and joy delivers quite a cynical message: sometimes those in whom we’ve placed the most trust can betray us. And when they do, they should expect a comeuppance sans mercy.

For Where’s Waldo? graduates who are ready for heavy-duty irony. (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-86059-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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Never has so much toilet humor been so charming

THE BOY WHO GREW DRAGONS

Tomas discovers a strange cactus at the back of his grandad’s messy garden with the most amazing fruit: tiny dragons.

When Grandad gets the urge to tidy up the weedy mess in his back garden, Tomas happily gives himself blisters helping out. He’s reluctant to chop down the fascinating cactus hidden behind the weeds, though. It “looks like a giant upturned mophead” and is covered with the strangest fruit, glowing and spiky. Tomas’ online searches tell him the strange fruit is pitaya, a dragon fruit—but unlike a real pitaya, Tomas’ explodes in the middle of the night, hatching into a tiny dragon. The dragon is lovely, a gorgeous, flying, magical creature. It is also, like many babies, a creature that mainly eats and poops. There’s flammable, exploding poo everywhere: in his dad’s porridge, on his mother’s best towel, and in Tomas’ gym bag—and even illustrated in smoldering glory. As Tomas seeks to keep his dragon hidden while seeking any others that might have hatched, the lively illustrations keep pace with the slapstick action. Blond, white Tomas and his lovely pet are not the stars of the irreverent pictures, though; that honor goes to the action: a terrifying leaping cat, a grumpy neighbor toppling into a wheelbarrow of flaming cabbages, and more.

Never has so much toilet humor been so charming . (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4998-1011-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little Bee

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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