The satire is neither as sharp as Dr. Swift’s nor as comical as Mr. Lear’s, but the fictive author’s discoveries should, as...

THE WONDEROUS JOURNALS OF DR. WENDELL WELLINGTON WIGGINS

The creators of the helpful guide to Modern Fairies, Dwarves, Goblins & Other Nasties (2010) now present the equally instructive, long-lost travel journals of a tubby but indefatigable  paleozoologist with an unexcelled genius for unearthing uncanny, if long-extinct, animal and humanoid species.

Systematically journeying to every continent between 1850 and 1885, Wiggins reports on over three dozen fossilized finds. These include “Thunder Vulcusts” (think vulture-locust), massive-limbed but “Pin-Headed Desert Giants,” and “Dreaded Gossip Peacocks” with ears and mouths as well as eyes on their feathers. The “Two-Headed Mammoth Buffalo” has a carnivore at one end and an herbivore at the other (“The whole arrangement reminded me of a marriage,” Dr. Wiggins notes jocularly). He also discusses centipede-like “Land Whales,” such as the one underlying Nantucket Island. The doctor proffers homiletic speculations about how each species came to its unfortunate end (the buffalos, for instance, probably ate themselves, just as we “are always biting off our own heads”) and provides sketched reconstructions of many specimens, with handwritten labels pointing out salient physical features and a human figure, usually tiny, for scale.

The satire is neither as sharp as Dr. Swift’s nor as comical as Mr. Lear’s, but the fictive author’s discoveries should, as he hopes, “enlighten, amuse, appall, and guide” young fans of the biosphere’s imaginary reaches. (Informational fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86850-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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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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Mary Downing Hahn fans will enjoy this just-right blend of history and spooky.

SCRITCH SCRATCH

A ghost haunting prompts a Chicago girl to investigate her local history.

Seventh grader Claire loves the predictability of science while her father relishes the paranormal, running a ghost-tour business in Chicago. Their worlds collide when Claire must help out her father at the last minute, and a ghost boy not only becomes an unwanted passenger on the bus, but follows her home and around the city. Currie’s visceral descriptions of the boy’s haunting—scratching behind walls, dripping water, icy air, scrawled notes, and more—exude creepy. Also scary to the middle schooler is losing Casley, her best friend and science fair partner, to Emily, the new girl in school who’s preoccupied with makeup. When Claire can no longer keep the ghost a secret, she recruits her older brother, along with Casley and Emily, to help her discover his identity. As she tries to apply the scientific method to the paranormal mystery, Claire realizes as well that there’s a human story behind every historical event. And as finding the ghost’s story becomes her mission, she researches a true Chicago disaster that killed more lives than the sinking of the Titanic. In the process, she also learns that jealousy hinders female solidarity. The historical details are fascinating, and the lessons Claire learns are lightly delivered. All characters, including the ghost boy, assume the white default.

Mary Downing Hahn fans will enjoy this just-right blend of history and spooky. (author’s note) (Paranormal suspense. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-0972-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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