From the Kenny & the Dragon series

This oblique homage to a now-creaky classic is lit by friendships, heroic feats, and exceptional art.

A long-eared young hero takes on a witch bent on trapping rare legendary creatures in a magical book.

Not so much a pastiche of E. Nesbit’s short story “Book of Beasts” as an original novel with cribbed elements, this adventuresome outing regathers and expands the animal cast of DiTerlizzi’s 2008 reworking of The Reluctant Dragon (titled Kenny & the Dragon) for a fresh challenge. As if coping with a dozen baby sisters and tending the bookshop of his questing mentor, Sir George E. Badger, aren’t hard enough, Kenny Rabbit feels abandoned by his best friend, dessert-loving dragon Grahame—who happily recognizes the supposedly mythical manticore that springs from the pages of a grimoire as an acquaintance from olden days. Avid to collect magical creatures of all sorts, the book’s owner, sinister opossum Eldritch Nesbit, tempts Kenny into an ill-considered bargain. But once he sees not only the manticore, but Grahame too snapped up, Kenny joins allies, notably his redoubtable crush Charlotte the squirrel, in a rumbustious rescue that also frees a host of unicorns and other long-vanished marvels. Aside from the odd griffin or al-mi’raj (a horned rabbit from Persian lore and an outlier in an otherwise Eurocentric cast), everyone in the lively, accomplished illustrations, from Kenny’s impossibly adorable sibs on, sports amusingly anthropomorphic dress and body language.

This oblique homage to a now-creaky classic is lit by friendships, heroic feats, and exceptional art. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4169-8316-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020


A waggish tale with a serious (and timely) theme.

An age-old rivalry is reluctantly put aside when two young vacationers are lost in the wilderness.

Anthropomorphic—in body if definitely not behavior—Dogg Scout Oscar and pampered Molly Hissleton stray from their separate camps, meet by chance in a trackless magic forest, and almost immediately recognize that their only chance of survival, distasteful as the notion may be, lies in calling a truce. Patterson and Grabenstein really work the notion here that cooperation is better than prejudice founded on ignorance and habit, interspersing explicit exchanges on the topic while casting the squabbling pair with complementary abilities that come out as they face challenges ranging from finding food to escaping such predators as a mountain lion and a pack of vicious “weaselboars.” By the time they cross a wide river (on a raft steered by “Old Jim,” an otter whose homespun utterances are generally cribbed from Mark Twain—an uneasy reference) back to civilization, the two are BFFs. But can that friendship survive the return, with all the social and familial pressures to resume the old enmity? A climactic cage-match–style confrontation before a worked-up multispecies audience provides the answer. In the illustrations (not seen in finished form) López plops wide-eyed animal heads atop clothed, more or less human forms and adds dialogue balloons for punchlines.

A waggish tale with a serious (and timely) theme. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-41156-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019


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

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 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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