A writing, translation, and illustration masterpiece.

THE STORYTELLER OF DAMASCUS

A highly humorous book about tradition in changing times, bravery, and love, imported from Germany.

In this tale from Syrian-German author Schami, the old storyteller of Damascus used to carry a large, ornate chest on his back, with small holes in it through which children could peek to see scrolled pictures accompanying his stories. In one, he tells of Leyla, the beautiful daughter of a rich farmer, Sami the poor shepherd, and their enduring love in the face of all obstacles put forth by her father against their marriage. Sami manages to fend off robbers with his left hand while rescuing Leyla with his right; he scares lions with his left hand while milking a lioness with his right; and he is challenged to acquire Leyla’s dowry of 300 camels from the herd of the sultan himself! German illustrator Knorr’s jewel-toned illustrations are superbly detailed and sequenced artfully, the tale of Leyla and Sami organized in bordered panels to form an integral part of both plots. The happily-ever-after story of the two lovers always sounds fresh, but as time goes by, some of the images the storyteller uses fade away, and he replaces them with contemporary magazine clippings, playfully affecting the plot. Leyla becomes Colgate, who has “beautiful white teeth,” Sami’s donkey becomes a motorcycle, and he is helped at one point by a clown. The story goes on, becoming “weirder and weirder” as time goes on but still vital and wonderful.

A writing, translation, and illustration masterpiece. (Picture book. 8-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62371-971-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Crocodile/Interlink

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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A moving tale of baseball, magic, and former rivals who come together to solve a problem.

MUCH ADO ABOUT BASEBALL

A middle schooler struggles to adjust after moving to an idyllic Massachusetts town.

Trish Das is at a crossroads. Not only is the 12-year-old unhappy that her family has moved yet again due to her mother’s cardiology career, she also has to try out for a new baseball team. The fact that one of her new teammates is a former archrival further complicates matters. Math prodigy Ben Messina went head-to-head against fellow math whiz Trish at last spring’s Math Puzzlers Championship. When Trish emerged victorious, Ben was stunned. The two get closer when the team’s mysterious pregame snacks start making everyone play better while also causing magical side effects during games. Equally surprising are the cryptic puzzle booklets Trish and Ben receive in the mail that lead them to even more wins. But as the puzzles get harder to solve, the risk of failing to do so increases. Alternating between Trish’s and Ben’s perspectives, LaRocca’s novel—a companion to 2019’s Midsummer’s Mayhem—is a Much Ado About Nothing homage that explores parental expectations, complicated friendships, and teamwork. The protagonists’ love of problem-solving shines through, and the puzzles themselves are clearly explained. As a third-generation Indian American, Trish also has moving conversations about the circumstances that led her grandparents to emigrate and how those decisions still impact their lives. Ben is implied White. Final illustrations not seen.

A moving tale of baseball, magic, and former rivals who come together to solve a problem. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4998-1101-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Yellow Jacket

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A brisk launch well endowed with surprising exploits and ominous portents.

ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME

From the Once Upon Another Time series , Vol. 1

A young giant has identity issues—no surprise, being as she’s only 5 1/2 feet tall.

Disingenuously apologizing to young readers for trying so hard to make them cry (and promising more of the same in future episodes), Riley pits a short-but-mighty giant and an aggrieved preteen genie against an annoyingly clever king who has gone decisively to the dark side. Her fervent hopes of being accepted as a giant met with harsh rejection, Lena flees down from the clouds to seek comfort from the mysterious Last Knight and have her real nature revealed by a drink from ex-witch Mrs. Hubbard’s Cauldron of Truth. First, though, she runs into Jin, a thoroughly chapped genie banished into a ring until he demonstrates humility, who’s currently under the thumb (literally) of fiendish King Midas. Most of the action takes place around the Cursed City, a hidden settlement populated by well-known figures, from Pinocchio to Humpty Dumpty, that both Midas and the giants have sworn to destroy. After many setbacks and twisty takes on fairy-tale tropes, the end leaves most of the city intact; Jin and Lena, who are plainly made for each other (though neither is anywhere near admitting it yet), freer to act than they were; and larger scale villainy and betrayal afoot. The cast members, or those not made of wood or gingerbread anyway, present White.

A brisk launch well endowed with surprising exploits and ominous portents. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2587-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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