Great fun, with hardly a trope or theme left unspun.

RETURN TO AUGIE HOBBLE

The award-bedizened illustrator offers up his first novel.

Mildly offbeat setting aside, it all starts on recognizable ground. Son of the manager of a seedy theme park dubbed Fairy Tale Place, Augie faces both bullying from local thug Hogg Wills and summer school because he’s failed Creative Arts (“Who fails Creative Arts?”). Also, dazzling classmate Juliana has joined the park’s colorful cast of costumed “hosts” as Cinderella, and along with allergy-prone best buddy Britt, he discovers that building a treehouse—in a tree, at least—is harder than it seems. Readers set by this opening for a moderately amusing summer idyll are in for a series of unsettling shocks as Smith then proceeds to vigorously knock expectations askew. He chucks in sudden death, a rash of missing pets, initially garbled but increasingly coherent and revealing messages from the great beyond, clairvoyant visions, robbery, lycanthropy and even mysterious government agents. It takes Smith to keep what could become a hot mess percolating happily along toward a just conclusion. Portraits, collages, hand-drawn comics and other illustrations done in a range of styles add characteristically postmodern notes to this roller-coaster ride.

Great fun, with hardly a trope or theme left unspun. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62672-054-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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Next to the exhilarating renditions of Rosemary Sutcliff (The Wanderings of Odysseus, 1996) and Geraldine McCaughrean...

THE ODYSSEY

An anemic retelling of the epic is paired to crabbed, ugly illustrations.

Breaking for occasional glimpses back to Penelope’s plight in Ithaca, Cross relates Odysseus’ travels in a linear narrative that begins with his departure for Troy but skips quickly over the war’s events to get to the sack of the city of the Cicones and events following. Along with being careless about continuity (Odysseus’ men are “mad with thirst” on one page and a few pages later swilling wine that they had all the time, for instance), the reteller’s language is inconsistent in tone. It is sprinkled with the requisite Homeric references to the “wine-dark sea” and Dawn’s rosy fingers but also breaks occasionally into a modern-sounding idiom: “ ‘What’s going on?’ Athene said, looking around at the rowdy suitors.” Packer decorates nearly every spread with either lacy figures silhouetted in black or gold or coarsely brushed paintings depicting crouching, contorted humans, gods and monsters with, generally, chalky skin, snaggled teeth, beer bellies or other disfigurements. The overall effect is grim, mannered and remote.

Next to the exhilarating renditions of Rosemary Sutcliff (The Wanderings of Odysseus, 1996) and Geraldine McCaughrean (Odysseus, 2004), this version makes bland reading, and the contorted art is, at best a poor match. (afterword, maps) (Illustrated classic. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4791-9

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards.

BEST NERDS FOREVER

Two young ghosts with unfinished business in this world join forces.

Eighth grade cyclist Finn McAllister decides to undertake a search for the supposedly crazed driver who forced him off the road and over a cliff to his death, but he spends far more of his time attending his own funeral, hovering near his grieving family and his four besties to overhear conversations, and floating through school—skipping the girls’ restroom because he still has somestandards—and positively hammering on the realization that wasting any of life’s opportunities can only lead to regret. He discovers that he can still taste ice cream, smell farts, skip stones in the local lake, and use a TV remote. He can also share thoughts with both the living and with Isabella Rojas, the ghost of a classmate who vanished several months previously but is still hanging around, although she is not sure why. Eventually, in a massively contrived climax that leaves both souls ready to move on, Finn comes up with a scheme to produce proof of Isabella’s death to bring closure to her mother and also absolves his hit-and-run driver of fault (for a reason readers will see coming). In this outing, the usually dynamic duo throws together an aimless ramble around a set of flimsy mysteries that fail to coalesce. Finn reads as White; Isabella is cued as Latinx. Final illustrations not seen.

Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards. (Paranormal fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-50024-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

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