A delightfully monstrous and fresh take on a traditional story.

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    Best Books Of 2016

Cinderella and the Vampire Prince

This fairy-tale retelling by picture-book veteran Blevins (Colors All Around, 2016, etc.) and illustrator Cox (Ben’s Rocket, 2016, etc.) might be just what the fairy godmother ordered for readers who are bored of goody-two-shoes Cinderellas.

After a warning to readers that this story is “one of the scariest,” it introduces night-owl Ella, who rubs soot into her skin so that she’ll better blend into the darkness during her night wanderings. She climbs trees, howls at the moon, and frolics with the forest residents. Her stepsisters, meanwhile, are mean and take cleanliness too seriously. When the invitation to a prince’s ball arrives, Ella gives attending some consideration; she’s never wanted to marry a prince, but she does want out of her stepmother’s awful house. Problematically, she has no dress or ride; even worse, her usual, wonderful fairy godmother is on vacation. (Ella has caused her a lot of worry with her night wandering in the past.) Instead, a bat-winged, creepy fairy godfather shows up, granting her a dress worthy of a flamenco dancer and a blood-red tomato carriage with rabbit coachmen pulled by a white-tailed deer and a brown bear. Ella is the hit of the ball, and she loves the costumes of the other guests, who look like monsters, ghosts, and mummies. The problem? Those aren’t costumes, and the vampire prince wants to taste Ella’s blood. But maybe, Ella considers, a vampire wouldn’t be so bad as a husband. Although Blevins bills this book as a twisted fairy tale for brave readers, none of the monsters are too scary, and the happy ending is more comical than eerie. Confident, independent readers who love their stories with a hefty dose of Halloween humor will fall under this Cinderella’s spell, and they’ll applaud the ending in which Ella gets to be herself and enjoy her nighttime hobbies with someone who’s happy to join her (minus the blood drinking, which is glossed over). Cox’s illustrations capture the tone perfectly and introduce a cast of creatures that never crosses the line into terror.

A delightfully monstrous and fresh take on a traditional story.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Red Chair Press

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE

Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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