A rather obscure human-interest story that, while beautifully illustrated, is not very enlightening on the topic of Mark...

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BAMBINO AND MR. TWAIN

The story of Mark Twain as a newly widowed, grieving, 69-year-old man holed up in his Manhattan apartment in 1904 is frankly a peculiar subject for a children’s picture book.

Granted, there’s a black cat named Bambino to capture the attention of younger readers, but will the picture-book set be familiar enough with Twain to appreciate this morose glimpse into the twilight years of “sad old Samuel Clemens”? Twain did own a cat named Bambino. True story: When Bambino escaped from an open window, the devastated Twain put a “LOST: MARK TWAIN’S CAT” ad in the paper and offered a reward for his safe return… a move that spawned such a heartwarming public response (and influx of cats) that he cast off his housecoats and rejoined the world in his legendary white suit. (As for whether Bambino was really responsible for that, the author says, “Only Sam and Bambino would know.”) The lugubrious tale is captured commendably in atmospheric, expertly composed mixed-media and digital illustrations, often of the scowling, long-faced Twain in various slumped positions. Unusual perspectives add visual variety and effectively highlight the apparent bond between the bereft author and his cat.

A rather obscure human-interest story that, while beautifully illustrated, is not very enlightening on the topic of Mark Twain, mourning the death of a loved one nor cats. A puzzler. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 8-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-58089-272-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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THE MYSTERIOUS WOODS OF WHISTLE ROOT

A strange, whimsical debut that may never quite convince readers why they should care about it.

Carly Bean Bitters is a likable 11-year-old with a strange malady: She is awake at night and sleeps during the day. This allows her to notice a strange phenomenon—a squash that appears on her roof. Carly soon meets Lewis, a musician and a rat, who explains that the squash is a member of his band, taking the place of a rat who has been abducted by owls. When Lewis introduces Carly to the other members of his rat community in the Whistle Root woods, she learns that the owls’ current behavior is abnormal—they used to dance to the rats’ moonlight tunes before they suddenly began snatching them. Thus begins a bizarre journey for Carly, who must discover the reason behind the owls’ sudden change of heart and other strange occurrences in the woods and her town. Though the back story behind the Whistle Root wood and various characters’ behavior is eventually explained, the explanations themselves are often disjointed and don’t quite add up. This feeling of arbitrariness makes it hard for readers to engage with the rats’ plight. While this quiet book achieves a timeless feel—being identifiably set neither in our world nor in another—this cannot atone for a history of the magical woods and creatures that sometimes feels nonsensical. (Fantasy. 8-10)

 

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-79263-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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A treat for proto–Percy Jackson fans.

THE QUEST FOR THE GOLDEN FLEAS

From the Zeus the Mighty series , Vol. 1

A center for rescued pets becomes the stage for adventures of literally mythical import in this series opener.

Convinced that they’re the gods after whom they’ve been named by the Mount Olympus Pet Center’s myth-loving owner (and Boyer drops hints that they’re not wrong), Zeus, a rescued hamster, and allies Demeter, Athena, and Ares—respectively a cricket, a tabby cat, and a scene-stealing pug of big stomach but little brain—get out at night to face such challenges as the deadly whirlpool of Charybdis (a stuck toilet). After listening (not very attentively) to a podcast version of “Jason and the Argonauts,” Zeus decides to settle a long-standing rivalry with a pufferfish named Poseidon by returning in triumph with the “Golden Fleas.” Little does he know that the quest will take him into Uncharted Territory (the empty store next door) where shrieking harpies (bats) lurk….While all of this doesn’t map very closely on the original yarn, it does offer opportunities aplenty for displays of courage, cleverness, and loyalty…as well as lots of comical byplay. Elkerton adds to both the comedy and the drama with vignettes and larger scenes of partly anthropomorphic animals in chitons and divine regalia, often looking dismayed or, in Ares’ case, ever on the lookout for Mutt Nuggets. A closing section includes further information on the source story and Greek myths in general.

A treat for proto–Percy Jackson fans. (map, floor plan) (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3547-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Under the Stars

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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