THE TRAVELING CIRCUS

From the Travels With My Family series , Vol. 4

A salutary, unusual look at part of the world rarely seen in North American children’s literature, wrapped up in family fun

A Canadian family’s vacation in Croatia offers both typical road-trip zaniness and opportunities for deep reflection.

When Charlie and Max find (under the kitchen stove) the postcard from Fred inviting the family to visit them on Vrgada, they know they are in for it. Older brother Charlie narrates the high jinks in a voice that is endearingly both knowing and impressionable. He is wise in the ways of his family, but he is also ready to try to understand Croatia. Mixed in with the usual vacation travails (car sickness, border pit stops, keeping tabs on his perpetually hungry little brother, Max) are sights and incidents very specific to their destination. Some are funny—apparently just about all Croatian men are named Slobodan, including family friend Fred—but just as many are poignant. They stop in an abandoned village seeded with land mines during Yugoslavia’s brutal civil war; they encounter psychologically maimed war survivors. All of this is related in Charlie’s convincing voice—he only half understands it but is deeply moved all the same. These hints of gravity punctuate but do not puncture the holiday fun; readers like Max and Charlie who have grown up in safety will emerge thoughtful but not traumatized.

A salutary, unusual look at part of the world rarely seen in North American children’s literature, wrapped up in family fun (. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-55498-420-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

THE SINGING ROCK & OTHER BRAND-NEW FAIRY TALES

Alert readers will find the implicit morals: know your audience, mostly, but also never underestimate the power of “rock”...

The theme of persistence (for better or worse) links four tales of magic, trickery, and near disasters.

Lachenmeyer freely borrows familiar folkloric elements, subjecting them to mildly comical twists. In the nearly wordless “Hip Hop Wish,” a frog inadvertently rubs a magic lamp and finds itself saddled with an importunate genie eager to shower it with inappropriate goods and riches. In the title tale, an increasingly annoyed music-hating witch transforms a persistent minstrel into a still-warbling cow, horse, sheep, goat, pig, duck, and rock in succession—then is horrified to catch herself humming a tune. Athesius the sorcerer outwits Warthius, a rival trying to steal his spells via a parrot, by casting silly ones in Ig-pay Atin-lay in the third episode, and in the finale, a painter’s repeated efforts to create a flattering portrait of an ogre king nearly get him thrown into a dungeon…until he suddenly understands what an ogre’s idea of “flattering” might be. The narratives, dialogue, and sound effects leave plenty of elbow room in Blocker’s big, brightly colored panels for the expressive animal and human(ish) figures—most of the latter being light skinned except for the golden genie, the blue ogre, and several people of color in the “Sorcerer’s New Pet.”

Alert readers will find the implicit morals: know your audience, mostly, but also never underestimate the power of “rock” music. (Graphic short stories. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59643-750-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

BOOKMARKS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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