Older children and art students will respond warmly.

VASILISA THE BEAUTIFUL

A RUSSIAN FOLKTALE

The Russian tale of Vasilisa and Baba Yaga, reillustrated for a new generation.

The folk tale is familiar to many, in itself and for its echoes of “Cinderella,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and even “Rumpelstiltskin.” It’s complex in structure and a little awkward in this translation, but mesmerizing illustrations carry the thread wholly to its lovely conclusion. Vasilisa’s dying mother gives her a little doll to protect her, and she needs it, as her stepmother and stepsisters work her cruelly. When they force Vasilisa to retrieve light from the fearsome Baba Yaga, the doll helps her to perform all the tasks Baba Yaga sets her to, and the light given her (a skull with blazing eye sockets) also destroys the evil stepfamily. Vasilisa takes refuge with an old woman, weaves linen so fine only the czar deserves it, and he, of course, falls in love with its weaver at once. The pictures are layered in patterns clearly inspired by Klimt, Chagall, and the spirit of surrealism, full of stars and birds and the colors of Russian lacquered boxes. The text weaves in Russian proverbs: “morning is wiser than evening.” The figure of Baba Yaga is both gorgeous and terrifying: half woman, half bird, all magical.

Older children and art students will respond warmly. (Picture book/folk tale. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-988-8240-50-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: minedition

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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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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90 MILES TO HAVANA

After Castro’s takeover, nine-year-old Julian and his older brothers are sent away by their fearful parents via “Operation Pedro Pan” to a camp in Miami for Cuban-exile children. Here he discovers that a ruthless bully has essentially been put in charge. Julian is quicker-witted than his brothers or anyone else ever imagined, though, and with his inherent smarts, developing maturity and the help of child and adult friends, he learns to navigate the dynamics of the camp and surroundings and grows from the former baby of the family to independence and self-confidence. A daring rescue mission at the end of the novel will have readers rooting for Julian even as it opens his family’s eyes to his courage and resourcefulness. This autobiographical novel is a well-meaning, fast-paced and often exciting read, though at times the writing feels choppy. It will introduce readers to a not-so-distant period whose echoes are still felt today and inspire admiration for young people who had to be brave despite frightening and lonely odds. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

 

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59643-168-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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