SOROTCHINTZY FAIR

First, this is not Gogol's lengthy original—a ribald, satirical picture of village life in the Ukraine, a story that turns on peasant gullibility, takes anti-Semitism for granted (Gogol is also merciless toward women, and everyone else), and is as rich in pungent detail as Washington Irving's tales—a grand piece of social history that would surely be problematic out of context, by one of Russia's 19th-century masters. Now, this text: reduced to one-fifth, a faithful outline of most of the events, this American translation of a German adaptation for children reads well enough, but almost all of Gogol's vibrant tapestry of peasant life has vanished, along with so many details of plot and character that the truncated remnant is puzzling at best—it's not even clear that the devils here are figments of rural credulity. But Spirin's illustrations, evidently inspired by the full text, are splendid. Known for his lush, romantic paintings for fairy tales (most recently The White Cat, 1990), this Russian artist uses his considerable skill here to far more interesting effect. Swirling, Brueghel-like crowds of lusty peasants—some rendered in vivid hues and others, drained of color, in a cinematic haze—mix with half-fantastic pigs and devils that seem to protrude through rips in the parchment-like paper: superb, imaginative response to Gogol's earthy story. The two belong together (publisher, please note!); meanwhile, these illustrations are too good to miss. (Fiction/Picture book. 8+)

Pub Date: April 10, 1991

ISBN: 0-87923-879-8

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991

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With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating...

FRINDLE

Nicholas is a bright boy who likes to make trouble at school, creatively. 

When he decides to torment his fifth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Granger (who is just as smart as he is), by getting everyone in the class to replace the word "pen'' with "frindle,'' he unleashes a series of events that rapidly spins out of control. If there's any justice in the world, Clements (Temple Cat, 1995, etc.) may have something of a classic on his hands. By turns amusing and adroit, this first novel is also utterly satisfying. The chess-like sparring between the gifted Nicholas and his crafty teacher is enthralling, while Mrs. Granger is that rarest of the breed: a teacher the children fear and complain about for the school year, and love and respect forever after. 

With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating tale—one to press upon children, and one they'll be passing among themselves. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-689-80669-8

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister:...

CORALINE

A magnificently creepy fantasy pits a bright, bored little girl against a soul-eating horror that inhabits the reality right next door.

Coraline’s parents are loving, but really too busy to play with her, so she amuses herself by exploring her family’s new flat. A drawing-room door that opens onto a brick wall becomes a natural magnet for the curious little girl, and she is only half-surprised when, one day, the door opens onto a hallway and Coraline finds herself in a skewed mirror of her own flat, complete with skewed, button-eyed versions of her own parents. This is Gaiman’s (American Gods, 2001, etc.) first novel for children, and the author of the Sandman graphic novels here shows a sure sense of a child’s fears—and the child’s ability to overcome those fears. “I will be brave,” thinks Coraline. “No, I am brave.” When Coraline realizes that her other mother has not only stolen her real parents but has also stolen the souls of other children before her, she resolves to free her parents and to find the lost souls by matching her wits against the not-mother. The narrative hews closely to a child’s-eye perspective: Coraline never really tries to understand what has happened or to fathom the nature of the other mother; she simply focuses on getting her parents back and thwarting the other mother for good. Her ability to accept and cope with the surreality of the other flat springs from the child’s ability to accept, without question, the eccentricity and arbitrariness of her own—and every child’s own—reality. As Coraline’s quest picks up its pace, the parallel world she finds herself trapped in grows ever more monstrous, generating some deliciously eerie descriptive writing.

Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister: Coraline is spot on. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-97778-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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