SONG FOR A DARK QUEEN

If Boudicca's tribe was a matriarchy and she was Queen in her own right, then her vengeance on the Romans for assaulting her person and raping her daughters takes on a different aspect, at once grander and more human. On that premise, Rosemary Sutcliff has recast the life of Boudicca (Boadicea) as it might have appeared to Cadwan, Harper to the Queen—who first fetches back the determined six-year-old when she runs off after the King's war-band. A small wooden sword and a small song are her compensations then; when she has a great sword like her father's, Cadwan tells her, he will make her a great song of the Victories of a Queen. At 13, she accepts and does not accept Prasutagus as her husband; but he has a will and a patience to match hers, and in time she is joyously his wife and the mother of two girls. The tribes, lightly tied to Rome before, must now turn in their weapons—save for the unsuspected swords of the women. A new Emperor, Nero, comes to the throne, and Britain has a new Governor, the celebrated general Paulinus. In this time of changes, of more and harsher regulation, Prasutagus sickens and dies. What could be more obvious to Nero, in the absence of a male heir, than to absorb his people into the Province of Britain? This we hear casually from a young Roman tribune, Gneus Julius Agricola, whose letters to his mother begin at this juncture and thereafter counterpoint Cadwan's narrative. (British children, of course, have the advantage of knowing that this thoughtful, unbellicose youth will be Britain's greatest Roman governor.) Roman officials appear, a drunken insult ends in mass outrage, and Boudicca—her blue eyes now "a dark forest" to Cadwan—rallies the tribes to drive the tyrants out. So begins the onslaught that levels cities, leaves captive women hanging "like dreadful white fruit. . . from the branches of the dark and ancient trees," and climaxes in Londinium with wholesale crucifixion—"a thing that we have learned from the Romans themselves." Then: stalemate. But Paulinus, heading north again, devises a way to turn back the massed might of the tribes; and, Rome triumphant, Boudicca returns home (in this version) to drink poison from the cup of Roman glass that was Prasutagus' gift, her Song of a Queen's Victories still unmade. A stirring, quietly eloquent miniature for young people just dipping their toes in these dark and turbulent waters.

Pub Date: March 1, 1979

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: T.Y. Crowell

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1979

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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