Great for those kids who’ll happily read about teddies and who enjoy genuinely scary monsters

SPARK AND THE LEAGUE OF URSUS

A sweet tale of a cuddly teddy come to life…or a thrilling adventure about monster fighting?

Spark takes being Loretta’s teddy bear very seriously. At 11, Loretta will soon be too old for her teddy, though she and older brother Matthew, dedicated amateur filmmakers, create movies starring plush toys. Spark knows that being a bear is about more than childish snuggling at night, for Spark is a proud member of the League of Ursus, the society of warrior stuffed toys that since some long-ago era has protected humans from monsters. But even Spark’s bearish demeanor is barely enough to fight off the horrific monster in Loretta’s bedroom, with its massive scorpion tail and horned human head. Could the monster be connected to the disappearance of Loretta’s friend Sofia? Spark and the other neighborhood toys are unlikely heroes, but their fight is hardly adorable or safe. When a bear is nearly disemboweled by the monster, the description of trailing innards consisting of “an enormous bundle of brown thread” somehow increases the violence of the injury. As in Matthew and Loretta’s YouTube movies, a “deadly serious story acted out by ridiculous stuffed animals” is attention-grabbing. The human children are of indeterminate race. Matthew has a genetic condition that has led to mobility issues, and another child has a disability that’s mentioned in passing.

Great for those kids who’ll happily read about teddies and who enjoy genuinely scary monsters . (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68369-166-2

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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Epic—in plot, not length—and as wise and wonderful as Gerald Morris’ Arthurian exploits.

KNIGHTS VS. DINOSAURS

Who needs dragons when there are Terrible Lizards to be fought?

Having recklessly boasted to King Arthur and the court that he’d slain 40 dragons, Sir Erec can hardly refuse when Merlin offers him more challenging foes…and so it is that in no time (so to speak), Erec, with bookish Sir Hector, the silent and enigmatic Black Knight, and blustering Sir Bors with his thin but doughty squire, Mel, in tow, are hewing away at fearsome creatures sporting natural armor and weapons every bit as effective as knightly ones. Happily, while all the glorious mashing and bashing leads to awesome feats aplenty—who would suspect that a ravening T. Rex could be decked by a well-placed punch to the jaw?—when the dust settles neither bloodshed nor permanent injury has been dealt to either side. Better yet, not even the stunning revelation that two of the Three Stooges–style bumblers aren’t what they seem (“Anyone else here a girl?”) keeps the questers from developing into a well-knit team capable of repeatedly saving one another’s bacon. Phelan endows the all-white human cast with finely drawn, eloquently expressive faces but otherwise works in a loose, movement-filled style, pitting his clanking crew against an almost nonstop onslaught of toothy monsters in a monochrome mix of single scenes and occasional wordless sequential panels.

Epic—in plot, not length—and as wise and wonderful as Gerald Morris’ Arthurian exploits. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-268623-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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