One of the world’s essential texts, presented in an accessible manner.

PRINCE OF FIRE

THE STORY OF DIWALI

A slightly revised version of a picture book (The Story of Divaali, 2002), this is presented more appropriately as a chapter book for “confident readers.”

The tale of Rama, the titular Prince of Fire, and his bride, Sita, has been retold for centuries, starting with Valmiki’s epic poem, the Ramayana. In an adaptation informed by Tulsidas, a 16th-century poet, Verma, who grew up in East Africa and the United Kingdom and learned the story from his parents, creates a smoothly written tale of adventure and sacrifice. Rama and his brother Lakshmana fight against Ravanna, the Demon King, to win back Sita, with the assistance of Hanuman, God of the Wind (sometimes known as the monkey god), and Jatayu, King of the Birds. When Rama conquers Ravana, he wins back his bride and brings light back to his kingdom, Ayodhya. That legendary feat is celebrated annually as people set up diwas (small pottery bowls with lit wicks) and electric lights to welcome Sita (and her avatar, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth) back from the world of darkness. In this edition, the explanation of Diwali (an alternative spelling) compares the holiday not only to Christmas, but to Hanukkah and Eid as well. Mistry’s gouache illustrations are done in the ornate style typical of Hindu religious paintings and posters.

One of the world’s essential texts, presented in an accessible manner. (Folklore. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-78285-307-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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