MYTHOLOGICAL CREATURES

A CLASSICAL BESTIARY

This is not so much a “bestiary” as a diverse gallery of figures from Greek mythology that are particularly suited to Curlee’s distinctive, neoclassical style of illustration. He chooses 16 subjects, ranging from gryphons and centaurs to Pan, Argus (depicted weirdly as a man with eyes all over his body), Poseidon’s fish-tailed son Triton and Talus, the bronze giant that guarded Crete. Aside from several notable exceptions like the gaping, gory head of Medusa, which stares stonily up from the page and will likely give many viewers the willies, all are posed in heroic profile and strongly, solidly modeled. The text facing each full-page portrait supplies physical descriptions, as well as abbreviated but clear versions of relevant myths. Curlee wraps the contents in a context-setting Prologue and Epilogue, so the entire volume not only provides an engrossing visual experience, but serves up a coherent early introduction to the range and purposes of these ancient tales. (Folklore. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 4, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4169-1453-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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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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A particularly rough-hewn addition to the “magic school” shelf, with very little magic in sight.

FIRST CLASS

From the Isle of Misfits series , Vol. 1

A gargoyle with a broken horn finds both work and a team at a secret school for mythological creatures.

Though properly taught to protect buildings and their residents (gargoyles’ function as rainspouts go unmentioned), Gibbon has been driven by boredom into dropping snowballs onto passers-by and like pranks. Suddenly, though, he’s whisked off to the Isle of Misfits, where the young and the restless are gathered to learn how to be better adjusted (“proper monsters”) and to appreciate the value of teamwork. It’s a whole new world for him, and he quickly bonds with four fellow students—a fairy with anger issues, a big and clumsy dragon, a yeti dude with a man bun, and a gentle griffin who can’t get the knack of flying. Initially, monkeylike Gibbon messes up an obstacle relay race by trying to take all the legs himself, but then at a later one he works with rather than against his friends to earn second place…or, as it turns out, first, because their malign, bullying competitors (“a green troll, a hairy gremlin, a slimy ghoul, and a baba yaga”) cheated. The prize is to skip class for a “mission” (see next episode). With rare exception, everyone in both the narrative and Hartas’ flurries of small sketched scenes seems to belong to a different species; fairy Fiona is depicted with brown skin. Despite their outward forms they’re all standard-issue kid types, if not stereotypes, and as unvarnished as the heavy-handed values education: “You need to learn how to work with your team, Gibbon. Your slacking off only makes it harder for the rest of us.”

A particularly rough-hewn addition to the “magic school” shelf, with very little magic in sight. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0822-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Little Bee

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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