Just enough creepiness for a Halloween read-aloud.




“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” gets a new treatment as Schnitzel, apprentice to the renowned wizard Sir Willabald, is loath to tackle the housekeeping.

The weedy, white youth, a self-described “lazy lout,” especially dislikes vacuuming, as he must use a temperamental, purple-tentacled beast of a machine. When a fanged salesman who resembles Bela Lugosi appears at midnight with a “Goooood evening,” the apprentice is more than happy to accept his offer to demonstrate the power of his fire-spewing vacuum cleaner. Echoes of The Cat in Hat abound, from the reference to the vacuum as “The Thing,” its red-and-white–striped bag, an umbrella stand, and the story itself, which the apprentice recounts in rhyming, first-person verse. The stranger is revealed to be a vampire when he threatens to bite the apprentice’s neck. Just in time, Sir Willabald restores order to the household with a great “POOF” of his wand in an expansive and very effective double-page spread. Primarily illustrated in gray-toned watercolors, splashes of color highlight the action. Pale, cartoonlike characters with outsized features match the lively text with exaggerated movements. Children will enjoy watching a housecat’s often hilarious reactions to the events throughout. An author’s note gives a brief history of the traditional story and some suggestions to children for writing their own versions.

Just enough creepiness for a Halloween read-aloud. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-58536-957-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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A gentle adventure that sets the stage for future quests.


From the The Kingdom of Wrenly series , Vol. 1

A lonely prince gains a friend for a quest to find a missing jewel.

Prince Lucas of Wrenly has everything a boy could possibly want—except a friend. His father has forbidden him to play with the village children for reasons of propriety. Adventure-seeking Lucas acquires peasant clothes to masquerade as a commoner and make friends, but he is caught out. His mother, the queen, persuades the king to allow him one friend: Clara, the daughter of her personal dressmaker. When the queen’s prized emerald pendant goes missing, Lucas and Clara set off to find it. They follow the jewel as it changes hands, interviewing each temporary owner. Their adventure cleverly introduces the series’ world and peoples, taking the children to the fairy island of Primlox, the trolls’ home of Burth, the wizard island of Hobsgrove and finally Mermaid’s Cove. By befriending the mermaids, Lucas and Clara finally recover the jewel. In thanks, the king gives Clara a horse of her own so that she may ride with Lucas on their future adventures. The third-person narration is generally unobtrusive, allowing the characters to take center stage. The charming, medieval-flavored illustrations set the fairy-tale scene and take up enough page space that new and reluctant readers won’t be overwhelmed by text.

 A gentle adventure that sets the stage for future quests. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9691-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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When Fred leaves his parents for the first time, his plans to be a ferocious dragon hit a snag. First Mrs. Green, the frog,...


Fred learns how to be true to himself and still be a dragon.

When Fred leaves his parents for the first time, his plans to be a ferocious dragon hit a snag. First Mrs. Green, the frog, mocks his roar as being like a meow, so, though Fred is supposed to eat humans, he gobbles her in one gulp. The princess thinks Fred’s fire looks like a candle, and a tiny bird is not afraid of him. They too meet in Fred’s tummy. Turns out, three’s a crowd for Fred’s stomach, and his intestinal pain leads him a solution that works for him and his crowd of helpers and new friends. Designed to encourage confident reading, the story alternates between long pages of text and highly illustrated pages with few words. Cartoon illustrations, especially details like the dragon’s red eyes and the giant’s warts and earring, help the newly independent reader follow the story, providing lots of visual cues which add the humor. When human John Little voluntarily walks into Fred’s open mouth and extricates his complaining contents, the illustrations turn energetic, with flying critters filling the air. New readers will love the humorous pictures and stay for the engaging tale.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-87180-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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