Lacks the nuance of such exemplars as Astrid Lindgren’s Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter (1983) or Sharon Creech’s The Castle...

THE GIRL IN THE TOWER

Will a beautiful young girl locked up in a tower be an ingredient in the spell to fulfill a wicked queen’s wish for beauty, or will she be the queen’s undoing?

Queen Bogdana longs for nothing more than to be beautiful, and she will stop at nothing to achieve her heart’s desire. Queen Bogdana, who is really an evil witch, has almost everything else. The magic spell that will make her beautiful requires two ingredients Bogdana does not have: “a feather from a living hummingbird and a strand of hair the color of darkness plucked from the head of a girl with eyes the color of lavender who had lived at least eleven years but no more than twelve.” As luck would have it, a newborn baby girl, Violet, fits the requirement, and the queen has Violet and her mother incarcerated in a tower until the appropriate time comes to obtain the strand of hair. The plot is set for the perfect fairy tale: an evil witch, greed, an innocent young girl, a devoted parent, and loyal friends. Ultimately, though, the undoing of this story lies in the bland, one-dimensional quality of its characters. Time passes easily reading the book, but it’s not enough to lift it above others in its well-populated genre.

Lacks the nuance of such exemplars as Astrid Lindgren’s Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter (1983) or Sharon Creech’s The Castle Corona (2007). (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9513-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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Ideas abound, but when the focus shifts from Thomas' determination to take the measure of the house (literally and...

THE HOUSE OF DIES DREAR

Dies Drear? Ohio abolitionist, keeper of a key station on the Underground Railroad, bearer of a hypercharged name that is not even noted as odd. Which is odd: everything else has an elaborate explanation.

Unlike Zeely, Miss Hamilton's haunting first, this creates mystery only to reveal sleight-of-hand, creates a character who's larger than life only to reveal his double. Thirteen-year-old Thomas Small is fascinated, and afraid, of the huge, uncharted house his father, a specialist in Negro Civil War history, has purposefully rented. A strange pair of children, tiny Pesty and husky Mac Darrow, seem to tease him; old bearded Pluto, long-time caretaker and local legend, seems bent on scaring the Smalls away. But how can a lame old man run fast enough to catch Thomas from behind? what do the triangles affixed to their doors signify? who spread a sticky paste of foodstuffs over the kitchen? Pluto, accosted, disappears. . . into a cavern that was Dies Drear's treasure house of decorative art, his solace for the sequestered slaves. But Pluto is not, despite his nickname, the devil; neither is he alone; his actor-son has returned to help him stave off the greedy Darrows and the Smalls, if they should also be hostile to the house, the treasure, the tradition. Pluto as keeper of the flame would be more convincing without his, and his son's, histrionics, and without Pesty as a prodigy cherubim. There are some sharp observations of, and on, the Negro church historically and presently, and an aborted ideological debate regarding use of the Negro heritage.

Ideas abound, but when the focus shifts from Thomas' determination to take the measure of the house (literally and figuratively), the story becomes a charade. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 1968

ISBN: 1416914056

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1968

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The tweaks deliver no real alterations, but the clothing and hairstyles may amuse.

DAVID ROBERTS' DELIGHTFULLY DIFFERENT FAIRY TALES

Three classic fairy tales given 20th- (and 30th-) century settings.

Originally published separately between 2001 and 2016, the stories are massaged in ways that tone down the violence of pre-Disney versions and show off the illustrator’s chops as a caricaturist. In “Cinderella” (2001), the scenes are filled with flamboyant art deco fashions and details; the fairy godmother creates a snazzy limo to take young Greta to the ball; and rosebud-lipped, pointy-nosed evil stepsisters Ermintrude and Elvira survive unmutilated. Similarly, in “Rapunzel” (2003), the title character escapes her mid-1970s flat to run off with (unblinded) pop musician Roger, and in “Sleeping Beauty” (2016), when 16-year-old science-fiction fan Annabel pricks her finger on the needle of a record player, she falls asleep for 1,000 years. The three female leads project airs of independence but really have no more agency here than in the originals. The all-White casts and conventional relationships of the first two stories do loosen a bit in “Sleeping Beauty,” as Annabel, who seems White, is watched over by an interracial pair of motherly aunts and awakened at long last (albeit with a touch, not a kiss) by Zoe, who has light-brown skin and long, black hair. Notes following each tale draw attention to the period details, and even the futuristic city at the end has a retro look. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-21-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70 % of actual size.)

The tweaks deliver no real alterations, but the clothing and hairstyles may amuse. (Fairy tales. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-84365-475-9

Page Count: 90

Publisher: Pavilion Children's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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