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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The play’s the thing, on the boards and…beyond.

NOAH MCNICHOL AND THE BACKSTAGE GHOST

The Plattsfield-Winklebottom Memorial Sixth-Grade Players tackle Hamlet—and not the bowdlerized “No-Trauma Drama” version, either.

To be sure, “Hamlet, the Tale of a Gritty Prince Who Learns To Be Patient,” is what the inexperienced young players are handed—but hardly has oddly elusive new director Mike stepped in to sub for the annual event’s customary one (who has, with fine irony, broken her leg) than every script magically reverts to the Bard’s original and they find themselves plunged into a bloody, complicated, and much cooler scenario. But who is Mike, and how is it that he can apparently not only appear and vanish at will, but conjure elaborate sets and costumes out of thin air? Taking a cue from his erstwhile literary hero Nate the Great, Noah (aka Marcellus, Gravedigger One, Rosencrantz, and Fortinbras) sets out to solve this double mystery. Electrifyingly, Mike turns out to be a renowned stage director…who died in 2014. That’s far from the only twist that Freeman delivers on the way to a triumphant performance—and a rush of family revelations. Her characters quote Shakespeare at one another as immersive rehearsals lend hard-won insights into the play’s linguistic and thematic slings and arrows. Noah, who is Jewish, describes Plattsfield as predominantly White; there are a few students of color, including Fuli, a girl cast as Hamlet who emigrated from Nepal. Color-blind casting and race are explored to some degree.

The play’s the thing, on the boards and…beyond. (Paranormal mystery. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6290-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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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