THE GLASSBLOWER'S CHILDREN

Unlike Gripe's contemporary Hugo and Josephine books, The Glassblower's Children is a fairy tale, with remote storybook settings, mythic themes and archetypal rather than realistic characters. The first chapters, drenched in Germanic folklore, are dominated by an almost tangible sense of foreboding which peaks at the country fair when Albert the glassmaker confronts the clairvoyant Flutter Mildweather, who weaves uncanny tapestries on Gallows Hill where she lives with a one-eyed raven. Then, in keeping with Flutter's prophecy, the glassmaker's beautiful children are kidnapped and carried across the river of forgotten memories into an altogether more elegant (and perhaps more French than Teutonic) but just as menacing fairytale world, linked with Albert's only by Gripe's dazzling but artificial glass imagery. Here the rich young Lord of All Wishes Town and his unhappy Lady hire a governess for the children, and Nanny's consuming evil presence and grotesque proportions introduce a third note, that of surreal extravagance. Unfortunately the shifts in scene and focus tend to dissipate the tension and instead of mounting revelation and convergence the climactic Flutter-Nanny confrontation (they turn out to be twin sisters) simply makes the previously mysterious Flutter a more and more conventional figure. Despite the seams and weak spots, however, Gripe polishes each separate scene to fine perfection and makes each development more chilling than the last.

Pub Date: May 7, 1973

ISBN: 978-1-59017-728-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1973

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Lit with sweetness.

SHARE SOME KINDNESS, BRING SOME LIGHT

Coco, who loves her gentle friend Bear, is shocked to learn that the other forest animals do not know about his kindness.

Inspired by one of her grandmother’s favorite maxims, Coco, a girl with light brown skin and curly brown hair, works with Bear to “share some kindness [and] bring some light” to the other animals in the forest. Interpreting it literally, the two make cookies (kindness) and lanterns (light) to share with the other animals. They trek through the snow-covered forest to deliver their gifts, but no one trusts Bear enough to accept them. As night begins to fall, Bear and Coco head home with the lanterns and cookies. On the way through the quiet forest, they hear a small voice pleading for help; it’s Baby Deer, stuck in the snow. They help free him, and Bear gives the young one a ride home on his back. When the other animals see both that Baby Deer is safe and that Bear is responsible for this, they begin to recognize all the wonderful things about Bear that they had not noticed before. The episode is weak on backstory—how did Coco and Bear become friends? Why don’t the animals know Bear better by now?—but Stott’s delicately inked and colored illustrations offer beguiling views of lightly anthropomorphized woodland critters that make it easy to move past these stumbling blocks. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 67% of actual size.)

Lit with sweetness. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6238-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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