It’s a muddle, and readers are as likely to flounder as Sky does. In a vision, he sees his beloved old mentor Phineas being...

RETURN TO EXILE

From the Hunter Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A preteen with a shadowy past and two odd scars on his palm is cast into a small town’s ongoing struggle among multiple kinds of monsters and warring factions of monster hunters in this hefty setup volume.

It’s a muddle, and readers are as likely to flounder as Sky does. In a vision, he sees his beloved old mentor Phineas being ambushed; he narrowly escapes attack by ravening Shadow Wargs on the grounds of a decrepit old estate; he has multiple run ins with verbally abusive teachers, violent bullies and nearly-as-hostile allies at his new school. The author stocks a huge cast with shapechangers (some of whom can and do adopt multiple guises), monsters of his own creation ranging from luridly vicious “wargarous” to “double bogies” and “screaming wedgies” and humans like Sky’s supposed parents, who plainly know more than they’re telling. Patten parcels out the details of a confusingly complex back story and the impending crisis du jour—a creature of, supposedly, stupendous evil poised to escape a time trap on the aforementioned estate—in driblets, while splashing the plot with extreme but oddly nonfatal violence and tongue-in-cheek dialogue. “And trust me—it’s not as hopeless as it looks. It’s much, much worse. Ready?” Splashes and splatters likewise frame Rocco’s chapter head spot art.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2032-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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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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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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