The ever-unique Egan (The Blunder of the Rogues, 1999, etc.) is back, and in peachy form, with this comical—believe it—tale of disappointment, mob rule, and rumor mongering. Preston the bear may be the checkers king of Ellington Lodge, but he is also negligent about his chores. So his wife accepts the offer of an itinerant dog, Marley, to paint the place in exchange for bed and board ("I learned to paint in France," notes the debonair Marley). Miraculously, the whole joint is painted by morning. Perhaps it was the unicycle Marley used that made all the difference, as seen in Egan's entertaining, tongue-in-cheek artwork, with its lovely bottle greens, barn reds, and inky purples. The next day, Marley whips up Eggs Florentine for breakfast ("I used to be a chef in Italy") before delivering a lecture in languages and a host of exotic stories. Then Marley steps on the banana peel: He beats Preston at checkers, snapping a 992-game streak. Vengeful, Preston starts dropping hints that Marley is a sorcerer. How else could he do all the things he does? The townsfolk start getting antsy: Doesn't legend say that sorcerers turn their enemies into ice? Soon the mob wants to run Marley out of town. Preston starts to feel the glimmerings of remorse, but it's too late. The crowd shows up at Marley's cabin and, lo, it is Marley who has been turned into ice. (" 'Wow,' said Jacob, 'I guess I heard that legend wrong!' ”) It's all a ruse, however, to show the townsfolk the evil of their ways ("I learned ice sculpting in Finland," admits Marley). Egan's arch humor and way with allegory couldn't be more finely tuned, even by a sorcerer dog. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-00393-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...


Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.


From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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