“See that shadow there? Could be the bunyip coming to get you! See that thing under the water, way too big to be a fish? That’s him, all right. Better run.” Though Pearson has done a poor job of scholarship, not only skipping source notes entirely, but billing her severely abridged version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” as anonymously “North American,” these fourteen retold tales are just right for reading late at night, under the sheets, with the bedroom door closed. Her renditions are readable, tellable, and matter of fact, taking readers from graveyard (“The Brave Little Tailor”) to fen (“The Buried Moon”), from Bluebeard’s castle to an igloo where a lonely fisherman’s tears bring a “Skeleton Woman” back to life. Amply illustrating the pages, Rowe adds gleefully atmospheric touches: rows of eyes peer out of the murky swamp; Vasilissa’s father looks on with mild surprise as she blasts her cruel stepmother to ashes with a glowing skull; the wolf grins up at viewers as a cautionary lesson to all who “cry wolf” needlessly. Ready for some chills? Don’t forget to check those flashlight batteries. (Folktales. 10-12)
A fifth-grader struggles to fit in after he and his recently widowed mother move to a decidedly oddball new town.
As if the seemingly infinite pier, the lighthouse in the middle of town, and the beach teeming with enigmatic cats aren’t strange enough, Davy Jones discovers that his school locker has been relocated to the deep end of the swimming pool, his lunchtime fries are delivered by a “spudzooka,” and no one seems to be able to get his name right. On the other hand, his classmates welcome him, and in next to no time he’s breaking into an abandoned arcade to play pinball against a ghost, helping track down a pet pig gone missing on Gravity Maintenance Day, and like adventures that, often as not, take sinister swerves before edging back to the merely peculiar. Point-of-view duties pass freely from character to character, and chapters are punctuated with extracts from the Topsea School Gazette (“Today’s Seaweed Level: Medium-high and feisty”), bulletins on such topics as the safe handling of rubber ducks, and background notes on, for instance, the five local seasons, giving the narrative a pleasantly loose-jointed feel. Davy presents as white, but several other central cast members are specifically described as dark- or light-skinned and are so depicted in the frequent line drawings; one has two moms.
A deft mix of chills and chuckles, not quite as sideways as Wayside School but in the same district.
On her birthday, a teenager learns that she is one of the Crystal Cadets, a textbook group of young, magic-wielding heroines charged with saving the world from vague, clichéd darkness.
This series opener introduces Zoe to the other Crystal Cadets: Jasmine, Olivia, Gwen, Liz, Milena, and a sixth, who is used as a plot twist. They ride fabulous creatures like winged horses and giant butterflies and use magical tools to fight off creepy people with black eyes. Zoe seems only momentarily fazed to find her parents evidently possessed before being whisked away. Glib dialogue makes the book feel trite and superficial. “Nonny, nonny boo boo. You can’t catch me!” sings a young cadet as she faces off against what looks like a toothed shadow. Attempts at puns create cringe-worthy moments: “Looks like the crystal's out of the bag!” The story was originally published as a digital comic series, and Toole’s writing offers mostly choppy transitions and is further hampered by poor worldbuilding, logic, and back story. In what feels like a halfhearted stab at grounding the story, Olivia explains, “The darkness has been around forever. It feeds on bad stuff, like fear and greed and bad manners.” If both story and illustrations remind readers of Sailor Moon, that is about par for the course. O’Neill’s depictions are fair and in the vein of manga comics, though at times they look depthless.