A buoyant eye-opener for younger readers under the impression that African folk tales begin and end with Anansi.

WHO IS KING?

TEN MAGICAL STORIES FROM AFRICA

Naidoo and Grobler follow up their Afrocentric collection of Aesop’s Fables (2011) with a fresh set of tales drawn from Amharic, Luo, Zulu and other traditions.

“Once, Lion wanted to check that all the animals knew who was boss. So he went to each in turn.” In these breezy retellings the lessons are pointed but (generally) nonfatal: Lion gets a sudden comeuppance from Elephant (“Who is King?”); Hippo discovers that Fire is a chancy friend (“Why Hippo Has No Hair”); a clever “Miller’s Daughter” outwits a harsh sultan with help from a djinni; an elephant with a newly stretched-out trunk uses it not for spanking, as Kipling’s Elephant’s Child does, but to make eating and drinking easier. In his cartoon illustrations, Grobler outfits humans in traditional regional dress and animals either similarly or sometimes with vibrant stripes or other decorative patterns. The stories range from one to six pages each, and the language lends itself with equal ease to reading aloud or silently. Though aside from an occasional word or song they are light on specific cultural markers, the tales offer a rich assortment of chuckle-worthy tricks, suspenseful adventures and salutary examples of behavior laudable or otherwise.

A buoyant eye-opener for younger readers under the impression that African folk tales begin and end with Anansi. (introduction, source notes) (Folk tales. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-84780-514-0

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure.

THE PIRATE PIG

It’s not truffles but doubloons that tickle this porcine wayfarer’s fancy.

Funke and Meyer make another foray into chapter-book fare after Emma and the Blue Genie (2014). Here, mariner Stout Sam and deckhand Pip eke out a comfortable existence on Butterfly Island ferrying cargo to and fro. Life is good, but it takes an unexpected turn when a barrel washes ashore containing a pig with a skull-and-crossbones pendant around her neck. It soon becomes clear that this little piggy, dubbed Julie, has the ability to sniff out treasure—lots of it—in the sea. The duo is pleased with her skills, but pride goeth before the hog. Stout Sam hands out some baubles to the local children, and his largess attracts the unwanted attention of Barracuda Bill and his nasty minions. Now they’ve pignapped Julie, and it’s up to the intrepid sailors to save the porker and their own bacon. The succinct word count meets the needs of kids looking for early adventure fare. The tale is slight, bouncy, and amusing, though Julie is never the piratical buccaneer the book’s cover seems to suggest. Meanwhile, Meyer’s cheery watercolors are as comfortable diagramming the different parts of a pirate vessel as they are rendering the dread pirate captain himself.

A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37544-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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This high-wattage debut is a little rough around the edges, but there’s nary a dull moment.

CAT DAD, KING OF THE GOBLINS

A pair of sisters and a froggy sidekick go up against a horde of fungal jungle dwellers in this frantically paced Canadian import.

When Mom transforms Dad into a cat, 10-year-old Luey, her leggy green friend, Phil, and little sister Miri chase him through a closet door and down a jungle path into a maze of tunnels. They manage to rescue their errant parent from the maroon-colored, cat-worshiping goblins that had overrun the garden. (They are not the “mythological” sort, explains Wilson, but sentient mushrooms dressed in towels.) The three put most of their pursuers to flight by rubbing Dad’s fur the wrong way to turn him into a raving, furry maniac (the rest flee at the closet door, screaming “IT’S THE MOM CREATURE! RETREAT!!”). Captured in multiple, sometimes overly small panels of garishly colored cartoon art, the action—not to mention the internal logic—is sometimes hard to follow. Still, dragging along their timorous but canny buddy, the dark-skinned, big-haired sisters dash into danger with commendable vim, and readers will cheer when they come out triumphant on the other side.

This high-wattage debut is a little rough around the edges, but there’s nary a dull moment. (afterword) (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-927668-11-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Koyama Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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