A grim cautionary tale reworked as a short adventure with a happy ending for primary grade readers and listeners.

READ REVIEW

THE SECRET OF THE KELPIE

Playing by the loch on a sunny afternoon, the blacksmith's five children find a beautiful white horse and attempt to ride it, only to be nearly drowned.

In this latest addition to a series of retellings of Scottish folk and fairy tales, the author uses elements of various traditional versions and acknowledges several collections of Scottish tales as source material. But Don makes her story far gentler than many. The youngest child, Flora, is the principal: the one who finds the beautiful white horse, figures out its true identity as a shape-shifting kelpie, and saves her siblings. No children die, and no fingers have to be cut off, only a piece of the creature’s mane. Sadly, though the story is told smoothly, with interesting language and plentiful dialogue, it never really comes to life. There are some Scottish words and usages: "Don't be daft," says Fergus when Flora refuses to get on the horse. But neither words nor images provide a strong sense of place. The illustrations, full of lines and swirls suggesting action, don't help to draw readers in. The characters are distant, even in close-up portrayals, looking down and away from readers. The colors are muted, just like the tale.

A grim cautionary tale reworked as a short adventure with a happy ending for primary grade readers and listeners. (Picture book/folk tale. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-78250-253-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kelpies

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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Steer Cthulhu-craving kiddies to Charles Gilman’s fearful and funny Lovecraft Middle School.

DR. FELL AND THE PLAYGROUND OF DOOM

Dr. Fell, foul fiend or friend to children?

The last house on Hardscrabble Street, empty and old, has always been a playground for the local children, so when a “sold” sign appears in the yard, no one’s pleased. Jerry and Gail Bloom and Gail’s friend Nancy Pinkblossom meet their new neighbor, the wizened Dr. Fell, and bemoan the loss of their play space. A few days later, a fantastical playground of pirate ships and castle towers appears in Dr. Fell’s yard. Before long, children start getting hurt there, but every injury on Dr. Fell’s playground heals quickly under his care. Gail, Jerry, and Nancy grow suspicious, especially when their parents start acting strangely. Then Gail returns from a visit to Dr. Fell acting brainwashed. Her friend and brother cure her, but as Dr. Fell’s control of the town grows, the trio realizes something terribly sinister’s afoot. Can they head it off? Actor and storyteller Neilsen’s debut tries too hard from the start. Dr. Fell speaks in purple prose and then translates himself nearly every time he converses, a characterization tic that grows old quickly. Repetition of humorless gags and forced quirkiness in nomenclature cannot be saved by a shallow attempt at Lovecraft-ian horror far too late in the tale. Terry’s black-and-white illustrations add atmosphere and depict an evidently all-white cast.

Steer Cthulhu-craving kiddies to Charles Gilman’s fearful and funny Lovecraft Middle School. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93578-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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Younger reluctant readers and recent early-reader grads alike will glory in this unlikely romp’s broad menu of...

FROGOSAURUS VS. THE BOG MONSTER

From the Monstrous Stories series , Vol. 3

Twins Sammy and Tammy save their town from not one, but two monsters loosed by a villainous land developer in this eco-themed muckfest.

Booted out of Boggy Marshes when real estate magnate Maximus Sneer begins draining the wetland’s water into an old quarry, Sammy and Tammy indignantly organize a public protest. This turns out to be less effective in squelching Sneer’s schemes than the newly re-hydrated frog monster that rises from the quarry and the 20-story-high mud monster that oozes up from the marsh’s thickened slime. After battling each other to a messy draw, Frogosaurus and the Bog Monster proceed to turn their attention toward terrorizing the tiny townsfolk—notably Sneer, whose sneers change to moans for his mommy. Quickly, the twins arrange a mass barbecue to fatally desiccate the former and enlist the fire department to hose the latter down into a mass of goo. Dr. Roach, a nattily attired insect, plays impresario for the all-action episode (more are on the way). It’s presented in short chapters of easily digestible narrative with black-and-white cartoon scenes on every page.

Younger reluctant readers and recent early-reader grads alike will glory in this unlikely romp’s broad menu of creature-feature clichés. (Fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: July 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-42556-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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