Absurdist and realistic at the same time, this Israeli mermaid tale requires a dry sense of humor.

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THE MERMAID IN THE BATHTUB

Grain-of-Sand, a mermaid, suddenly appears in Mr. Whatwilltheysay’s apartment.

Greatly concerned with his neighbors’ opinions, blank-faced Mr. Whatwilltheysay wants the mermaid to leave, but only when no one can see her. Although he is attracted to her, he cannot imagine marrying her, her bottom half consisting of a fish tail—he is true to his rather obvious name. She rightly calls him out on his fish-shaming: “You’re saying that because you have legs.” She keeps trying to introduce her watery ways into his humdrum life, but he’s not falling for her the way that males usually do in mermaid tales. When she disappears, he realizes his mistake. He madly searches the Tel Aviv waterfront and, on the fourth night, finally spots her, rising majestically from the waves, in the bathtub she stole from his apartment. The old stories do ring true, but after the fearful guy joins her, Grain-of-Sand has the last word: “I saved the tub stopper for you, my darling.” The two main characters present white. Inspired by mermaid legends, this Israeli import has a wry humor that may mystify young readers here. The surrealist illustrations feature intense colors on very shiny paper; they will draw everyone’s attention, children and adults alike.

Absurdist and realistic at the same time, this Israeli mermaid tale requires a dry sense of humor. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63206-211-6

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Restless Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Steer Cthulhu-craving kiddies to Charles Gilman’s fearful and funny Lovecraft Middle School.

DR. FELL AND THE PLAYGROUND OF DOOM

Dr. Fell, foul fiend or friend to children?

The last house on Hardscrabble Street, empty and old, has always been a playground for the local children, so when a “sold” sign appears in the yard, no one’s pleased. Jerry and Gail Bloom and Gail’s friend Nancy Pinkblossom meet their new neighbor, the wizened Dr. Fell, and bemoan the loss of their play space. A few days later, a fantastical playground of pirate ships and castle towers appears in Dr. Fell’s yard. Before long, children start getting hurt there, but every injury on Dr. Fell’s playground heals quickly under his care. Gail, Jerry, and Nancy grow suspicious, especially when their parents start acting strangely. Then Gail returns from a visit to Dr. Fell acting brainwashed. Her friend and brother cure her, but as Dr. Fell’s control of the town grows, the trio realizes something terribly sinister’s afoot. Can they head it off? Actor and storyteller Neilsen’s debut tries too hard from the start. Dr. Fell speaks in purple prose and then translates himself nearly every time he converses, a characterization tic that grows old quickly. Repetition of humorless gags and forced quirkiness in nomenclature cannot be saved by a shallow attempt at Lovecraft-ian horror far too late in the tale. Terry’s black-and-white illustrations add atmosphere and depict an evidently all-white cast.

Steer Cthulhu-craving kiddies to Charles Gilman’s fearful and funny Lovecraft Middle School. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93578-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A grim cautionary tale reworked as a short adventure with a happy ending for primary grade readers and listeners.

THE SECRET OF THE KELPIE

Playing by the loch on a sunny afternoon, the blacksmith's five children find a beautiful white horse and attempt to ride it, only to be nearly drowned.

In this latest addition to a series of retellings of Scottish folk and fairy tales, the author uses elements of various traditional versions and acknowledges several collections of Scottish tales as source material. But Don makes her story far gentler than many. The youngest child, Flora, is the principal: the one who finds the beautiful white horse, figures out its true identity as a shape-shifting kelpie, and saves her siblings. No children die, and no fingers have to be cut off, only a piece of the creature’s mane. Sadly, though the story is told smoothly, with interesting language and plentiful dialogue, it never really comes to life. There are some Scottish words and usages: "Don't be daft," says Fergus when Flora refuses to get on the horse. But neither words nor images provide a strong sense of place. The illustrations, full of lines and swirls suggesting action, don't help to draw readers in. The characters are distant, even in close-up portrayals, looking down and away from readers. The colors are muted, just like the tale.

A grim cautionary tale reworked as a short adventure with a happy ending for primary grade readers and listeners. (Picture book/folk tale. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-78250-253-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kelpies

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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