Combines realistic empathy with fantastical elements; as exquisite as it is moving.

THE OGRESS AND THE ORPHANS

A once-idyllic town blames an outsider for its woes.

Long ago, a fire claimed Stone-in-the-Glen’s beloved Library, which started a sequence of events that eroded all of the nicest things about the town, changing the identity of the place and the townspeople alike as citizens grew suspicious and closed off from one another. When the town fails to support the Orphan House, one orphan runs away so as to not take more resources. Cass is rescued and brought back by the sweet-natured Ogress who lives on a farm at the edge of Stone-in-the-Glen. But her return is spied by a man who misunderstands and thinks the Ogress is abducting children, and the townspeople become riled up against the Ogress by the self-serving, strife-loving Mayor. When the adults won’t listen to the children, they must find another way to help their generous neighbor and repair their broken community. The story’s told from a broadly omniscient perspective through slow, thoughtful pacing. Readers will make connections before the characters do—especially regarding the true nature of the villain—and they are given narrative assurance of a happy ending. This offers young audiences security as they grapple with nuanced, realistic portrayals of people who are neither all good nor all bad. It also gives them space to form their own opinions on the book’s philosophical and thematic questions, including the refrain: “The more you give, the more you have.” Main human characters read as White.

Combines realistic empathy with fantastical elements; as exquisite as it is moving. (Fantasy. 9-adult)

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64375-074-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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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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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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