A fresh alternative to dustier collections, well-tuned for reading aloud.

MAGICAL CELTIC TALES

Nine old tales retold, featuring courage and cleverness, giants and wee folk, rash actions and romance.

Gathered from, mostly, public-domain sources and fluently recast with occasional modern inflections (“Meanwhile, back at the court, King Gwrtheyrn was depressed”), the stories largely skip past explicit gore or violence to play up family and domestic values. Thus “Conor the Brave” takes on several (rather easily defeated) giants to keep his widowed mother in firewood; Hamish (euphemistically dubbed a “seal catcher”) takes up trade in sealskins to help his impoverished Scottish clan—and sincerely repents after discovering that selkies are real; and a Cornish couple is rewarded with a human child for looking lovingly after a changeling for 10 years. In a “Rumpelstiltskin” variant from the Isle of Man that puts at least a mild spin on convention, slacker housewife Blaanid mends her ways after her own procrastination forces her into a deal with a scary giant in order to get her hardworking husband a coat. In O’Connor’s brushy watercolors, red-haired or blond young white folk in ragged country clothing intrepidly face portly giants or pointy-eared fairies in rugged wind-swept landscapes. American tongues will wish in vain for a pronunciation guide to the Welsh and Gaelic names, but in her endnotes, Leavy does supply both context and sources for each story.

A fresh alternative to dustier collections, well-tuned for reading aloud. (Folk tales. 7-11)

Pub Date: May 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-84717-546-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Dufour

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.

BOOKMARKS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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Alert readers will find the implicit morals: know your audience, mostly, but also never underestimate the power of “rock”...

THE SINGING ROCK & OTHER BRAND-NEW FAIRY TALES

The theme of persistence (for better or worse) links four tales of magic, trickery, and near disasters.

Lachenmeyer freely borrows familiar folkloric elements, subjecting them to mildly comical twists. In the nearly wordless “Hip Hop Wish,” a frog inadvertently rubs a magic lamp and finds itself saddled with an importunate genie eager to shower it with inappropriate goods and riches. In the title tale, an increasingly annoyed music-hating witch transforms a persistent minstrel into a still-warbling cow, horse, sheep, goat, pig, duck, and rock in succession—then is horrified to catch herself humming a tune. Athesius the sorcerer outwits Warthius, a rival trying to steal his spells via a parrot, by casting silly ones in Ig-pay Atin-lay in the third episode, and in the finale, a painter’s repeated efforts to create a flattering portrait of an ogre king nearly get him thrown into a dungeon…until he suddenly understands what an ogre’s idea of “flattering” might be. The narratives, dialogue, and sound effects leave plenty of elbow room in Blocker’s big, brightly colored panels for the expressive animal and human(ish) figures—most of the latter being light skinned except for the golden genie, the blue ogre, and several people of color in the “Sorcerer’s New Pet.”

Alert readers will find the implicit morals: know your audience, mostly, but also never underestimate the power of “rock” music. (Graphic short stories. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59643-750-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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