Riveting reading, well-timed for the centennial of the Titanic’s sinking.

HEROES OF THE SURF

Based on a true story of shipwreck and rescue, Carbone’s tale is leavened with narration by Anthony, a venturesome lad whose penchant for playing pirates helps him through the harrowing event.

It’s 1882, and the steamship Pliny, bound for New York City from Brazil, founders in a storm off New Jersey. Anthony and his friend Pedro run onto the deck to gauge whether New York is near. Instead, they face life-threatening conditions, as towering waves splinter lifeboats and the engines die. In the gray dawn, the boys see land, men and—a cannon. Before there’s much time to ponder pirates, a rescue line is launched from shore to ship, followed by the breeches buoy: “It comes swinging toward us hanging from the rope: a life preserver with a pair of short pants attached.” One by one, passengers are hauled along the line to safety ashore at Deal Beach. Carbone’s text conveys a compelling “you are there” tone as Anthony prepares to ride the breeches buoy: “I swing out into open space. Below me, waves crash and twist like angry snakes. Will the ropes hold?” Carpenter’s pictures beautifully capture both historical detail and the event’s inherent drama. A seagoing palette of blue, gray, brown and ochre, crosshatched in black, thoroughly suits the period.

Riveting reading, well-timed for the centennial of the Titanic’s sinking. (afterword) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-06312-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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An action-packed romp.

EVEN SUPERHEROES HAVE BAD DAYS

Superheroes deal with their emotions.

What happens when the empowered have a terrible day? Becker posits that while they could go on destructive sprees and wreak havoc, the caped crusaders and men and women of steel harness their energies and direct it in constructive ways. Little readers filled with energy and emotion may learn to draw similar conclusions, but the author doesn’t hammer home the message. The author has much more fun staging scenes of chaos and action, and Kaban clearly has a ball illustrating them. Superheroes could use laser vision to burn down forests and weather powers to freeze beachgoers. They could ignore crime sprees and toss vehicles across state lines. These hypothetical violent spectacles are softened by the cartoonish stylizations and juxtaposed with pages filled with heroic, “true” efforts such as rounding up criminals and providing fun at an amusement park. The illustrations are energetic and feature multicultural heroes. The vigorous illustrations make this a read for older children, as the busyness could overwhelm very little ones. While the book’s formula recalls How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? and its many sequels, the relative scarcity of superhero picture books means there’s a place on the shelf for it.

An action-packed romp. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4549-1394-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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