WINGWALKER

This big-hearted, Depression-era, American fairy tale seems to come alive out of a former generation like a well-worn family yarn. Reuben’s perfect childhood in Oklahoma disintegrates with the arrival of the Dust Bowl that deprives his parents of their jobs. This presents his father, a teacher of ballroom dance, with a thrilling opportunity to become a “wingwalker” with a traveling county fair, an opportunity that his wife strongly opposes. Physically small, Reuben himself has a reputation for being a bit of a sissy whose nickname is “shrimp-boats.” He can barely stand to watch his father execute his ballroom steps on the plane wing, let alone think of accompanying him. But the folks of the fair take Reuben to their hearts and give him encouragement. When his father wants to take Reuben up on the wing with him, the Human Snake advises, “Hold your father’s hand.” This enables the boy to stand hand-in-hand in the air with his proud father. Wells’s prose is spare but has both richness and freshness of simile and image, e.g., “a drilling rig pumping away like a big iron grasshopper.” If some details (the purchase of a new Studebaker) strain credibility, it is true to a form in which repeated telling establishes confidence in the rightness of a story. Selznick has a lock on the iconography of history as it intersects with dreams. As if keeping a promise to the story’s symbolic metaphor, his paintings are full of sky, airplanes, and upward-looking faces. Handsomely designed, the glossy stock and neat, consistent framing lend serenity and a sense of looking into stopped moments in a vintage album. A small disappointment is the final painting, to which readers will turn eagerly, and which depicts the father, not in his trademark “best black suit,” but in far less dapper attire. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-0397-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2002

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THE STONE OF FIRE

From the Cavemice series , Vol. 1

Warp back in time for a prehistoric spinoff adventure with Geronimo Stilton’s ancestor, Geronimo Stiltonoot, in Old Mouse City.

Readers will find Geronimo Stiltonoot a familiar character, outfitted differently from descendant Stilton yet still running a newspaper and having wild adventures. In this introduction to prehistoric mouse life, someone has stolen the most powerful and important artifact housed by the Old Mouse City Mouseum: the Stone of Fire. It’s up to Stiltonoot and his fellow sleuth and friend, Hercule Poirat, to uncover not only the theft, but a dangerous plot that jeopardizes all of Old Mouse City. As stand-ins for the rest of the Stilton cast, Stiltonoot has in common with Stilton a cousin named Trap, a sister named Thea and a nephew named Benjamin. The slapstick comedy and design, busy with type changes and color, will be familiar for Stilton readers. The world is fictionalized for comedic effect, featuring funny uses for dinosaurs and cheeky references to how far back in time they are, with only the occasional sidebar that presents facts. The story takes a bit long to get started, spending a lot of time reiterating the worldbuilding information laid out before the first chapter. But once it does start, it is an adventure Stilton readers will enjoy. Geronimo Stiltonoot has the right combination of familiarity and newness to satisfy Stilton fans. (Fiction. 6-10)

 

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-44774-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers.

THE CREATURE OF THE PINES

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 1

Elliot’s first day of school turns out to be more than he bargained for.

Elliot Eisner—skinny and pale with curly brown hair—is a bit nervous about being the new kid. Thankfully, he hits it off with fellow new student, “punk rock”–looking Uchenna Devereaux, a black girl with twists (though they actually look like dreads in Aly’s illustrations). On a first-day field trip to New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the pair investigates a noise in the trees. The cause? A Jersey Devil: a blue-furred, red-bellied and -winged mythical creature that looks like “a tiny dragon” with cloven hooves, like a deer’s, on its hind feet. Unwittingly, the duo bonds with the creature by feeding it, and it later follows them back to the bus. Unsurprisingly, they lose the creature (which they alternately nickname Jersey and Bonechewer), which forces them to go to their intimidating, decidedly odd teacher, Peruvian Professor Fauna, for help in recovering it. The book closes with Professor Fauna revealing the truth—he heads a secret organization committed to protecting mythical creatures—and inviting the children to join, a neat setup for what is obviously intended to be a series. The predictable plot is geared to newly independent readers who are not yet ready for the usual heft of contemporary fantasies. A brief history lesson given by a mixed-race associate of Fauna’s in which she compares herself to the American “melting pot” manages to come across as simultaneously corrective and appropriative.

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3170-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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