TALES FROM THE HOUSE OF BUNNICULA #4

SCREAMING MUMMIES OF THE PHARAOH’S TOMB II

In the latest Bunnicula spinoff, canine author Howie sets his sights on winning a coveted “Newboney” Award, enlisting the advice of heartthrob Delilah, who not only offers cogent advice—“It also helps if the characters are poor and somebody dies . . . or if the main character, usually a child and preferably an orphan, goes on a long journey. Alone. Oh, and it should be a book girls like”—but volunteers her services as co-writer. As chronicled in Howie’s handwritten (paw-written?) Writer’s Journal, the collaboration quickly degenerates into a dogfight as the two wrangle over a title (“Walk Two Bones,” “Delilah, Beautiful and Short”), and pen alternate chapters heavy on either action or character development, but never both. Eventually, a time-travel-horror-coming-of-age tale featuring a basement time machine, two puppies, and a scholarly frog from a previous episode, emerges. After Delilah develops the characters to a fare-thee-well in the final chapter, the last word goes to M.T. Graves, bestselling author of the Fleshcrawler series, who supplies a fulsome blurb. High-nosed puppies cut unabashedly noble figures in Helquist’s broadly humorous pictures. Younger readers may have to go to librarians or well-read parents to have some of the in-jokes explained, but for all pup writers, not to mention the next Newboney Committee, this is a “must-chew.” (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-689-83953-7

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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KENNY & THE DRAGON

Reports of children requesting rewrites of The Reluctant Dragon are rare at best, but this new version may be pleasing to young or adult readers less attuned to the pleasures of literary period pieces. Along with modernizing the language—“Hmf! This Beowulf fellow had a severe anger management problem”—DiTerlizzi dials down the original’s violence. The red-blooded Boy is transformed into a pacifistic bunny named Kenny, St. George is just George the badger, a retired knight who owns a bookstore, and there is no actual spearing (or, for that matter, references to the annoyed knight’s “Oriental language”) in the climactic show-fight with the friendly, crème-brulée-loving dragon Grahame. In look and spirit, the author’s finely detailed drawings of animals in human dress are more in the style of Lynn Munsinger than, for instance, Ernest Shepard or Michael Hague. They do, however, nicely reflect the bright, informal tone of the text. A readable, if denatured, rendition of a faded classic. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4169-3977-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2008

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RED-EYED TREE FROG

Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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