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

KENNY & THE BOOK OF BEASTS

From the Kenny & the Dragon series

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 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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

KNIGHTS VS. DINOSAURS

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 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that...

BEN FRANKLIN'S IN MY BATHROOM!

Antics both instructive and embarrassing ensue after a mysterious package left on their doorstep brings a Founding Father into the lives of two modern children.

Summoned somehow by what looks for all the world like an old-time crystal radio set, Ben Franklin turns out to be an amiable sort. He is immediately taken in hand by 7-year-old Olive for a tour of modern wonders—early versions of which many, from electrical appliances in the kitchen to the Illinois town’s public library and fire department, he justly lays claim to inventing. Meanwhile big brother Nolan, 10, tags along, frantic to return him to his own era before either their divorced mom or snoopy classmate Tommy Tuttle sees him. Fleming, author of Ben Franklin’s Almanac (2003) (and also, not uncoincidentally considering the final scene of this outing, Our Eleanor, 2005), mixes history with humor as the great man dispenses aphorisms and reminiscences through diverse misadventures, all of which end well, before vanishing at last. Following a closing, sequel-cueing kicker (see above) she then separates facts from fancies in closing notes, with print and online leads to more of the former. To go with spot illustrations of the evidently all-white cast throughout the narrative, Fearing incorporates change-of-pace sets of sequential panels for Franklin’s biographical and scientific anecdotes. Final illustrations not seen.

It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that adds flavor without weight. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93406-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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