HANSEL AND GRETEL

Morpurgo casts a particularly repugnant witch in this lengthy, expanded version of the classic folktale. Tragedy strikes a happy family when the loathsome Belladonna comes out of the forest and, impelled by a desire to be young, beautiful and loved, transforms Hansel and Gretel’s mother Lisette into a weeping willow and then in disguise turns the head of their grieving father. From there the plot mostly follows its traditional course. Hiding her rage when the children refuse to love her, Belladonna causes a famine and, cruelty being her “special specialty,” badgers her husband into agreeing to dispose of his own children. After that fails, she takes matters into her own hands, making gleefully sure that both children understand just what fate she has in store for them. All of her spells are broken after Gretel shoves her into the oven, though, and the stage is set for a happily-ever-after ending. This psychologically freighted rendition isn’t nearly as innocuous as the sparkly cover suggests, but Chichester Clark’s slightly distant, brightly patterned cartoon illustrations ameliorate some of the tale’s more unsettling aspects. (Picture book/folktale. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4012-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

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An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood.

REBOUND

In this prequel to Newbery Award–winning The Crossover (2014), Alexander revisits previous themes and formats while exploring new ones.

For Charlie Bell, the future father of The Crossover’s Jordan and Josh, his father’s death alters his relationship with his mother and causes him to avoid what reminds him of his dad. At first, he’s just withdrawn, but after he steals from a neighbor, his mother packs a reluctant Charlie off to his grandparents near Washington, D.C., for the summer. His grandfather works part-time at a Boys and Girls Club where his cousin Roxie is a star basketball player. Despite his protests, she draws him into the game. His time with his grandparents deepens Charlie’s understanding of his father, and he begins to heal. “I feel / a little more normal, / like maybe he’s still here, / … in a / as long as I remember him / he’s still right here / in my heart / kind of way.” Once again, Alexander has given readers an African-American protagonist to cheer. He is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, especially two brilliant female characters, his friend CJ and his cousin Roxie, as well as his feisty and wise granddaddy. Music and cultural references from the late 1980s add authenticity. The novel in verse is enhanced by Anyabwile’s art, which reinforces Charlie’s love for comics.

An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood. (Historical verse fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-86813-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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THE BAD BEGINNING

The Baudelaire children—Violet, 14, Klaus, 12, and baby Sunny—are exceedingly ill-fated; Snicket extracts both humor and horror from their situation, as he gleefully puts them through one terrible ordeal after another. After receiving the news that their parents died in a fire, the three hapless orphans are delivered into the care of Count Olaf, who “is either a third cousin four times removed, or a fourth cousin three times removed.” The villainous Count Olaf is morally depraved and generally mean, and only takes in the downtrodden yet valiant children so that he can figure out a way to separate them from their considerable inheritance. The youngsters are able to escape his clutches at the end, but since this is the first installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events, there will be more ghastly doings. Written with old-fashioned flair, this fast-paced book is not for the squeamish: the Baudelaire children are truly sympathetic characters who encounter a multitude of distressing situations. Those who enjoy a little poison in their porridge will find it wicked good fun. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-440766-7

Page Count: 162

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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