This lovely and penetratingly creepy version of the familiar tale will linger long with readers.

PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN

This strange and unsettling tale is made all the stranger and more unsettling by Zwerger’s spare, isolated figures in their pale interiors and landscapes, not to mention the rats that populate many of the versos until they are dispatched.

The Grimms provide a precise date, June 26, 1284, for the tale, as the reteller Raecke notes in her afterword. It unfurls with chilling specificity. Rats have overrun the town of Hamelin, and the townspeople promise much gold to the stranger with the parti-colored coat if he will rid the town of them. He does, by playing “a tune that had never been heard before,” which sends all the rats to the river Weser. But the townspeople renege on their promise, and the piper comes back dressed like a hunter and plays another unknown tune—and all the Hamelin children who can walk follow him and disappear, and the piper with them. Zwerger’s haunting images and the mystery of the story itself make for a powerful telling. What does it mean and with whom will it resonate? Older children might be captivated by the idea of following a stranger’s music (and the importance of keeping your word); younger children might be intrigued by the rats and their departure.

This lovely and penetratingly creepy version of the familiar tale will linger long with readers. (Picture book/fairy tale. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-988-8240-82-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: minedition

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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This story covers the few days preceding the much-anticipated Midnight Zombie Walk, when Stink and company will take to the...

STINK AND THE MIDNIGHT ZOMBIE WALK

From the Stink series

An all-zombie-all-the-time zombiefest, featuring a bunch of grade-school kids, including protagonist Stink and his happy comrades.

This story covers the few days preceding the much-anticipated Midnight Zombie Walk, when Stink and company will take to the streets in the time-honored stiff-armed, stiff-legged fashion. McDonald signals her intent on page one: “Stink and Webster were playing Attack of the Knitting Needle Zombies when Fred Zombie’s eye fell off and rolled across the floor.” The farce is as broad as the Atlantic, with enough spookiness just below the surface to provide the all-important shivers. Accompanied by Reynolds’ drawings—dozens of scene-setting gems with good, creepy living dead—McDonald shapes chapters around zombie motifs: making zombie costumes, eating zombie fare at school, reading zombie books each other to reach the one-million-minutes-of-reading challenge. When the zombie walk happens, it delivers solid zombie awfulness. McDonald’s feel-good tone is deeply encouraging for readers to get up and do this for themselves because it looks like so much darned fun, while the sub-message—that reading grows “strong hearts and minds,” as well as teeth and bones—is enough of a vital interest to the story line to be taken at face value.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5692-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.

BOOKMARKS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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