One of the world’s essential texts, presented in an accessible manner.

PRINCE OF FIRE

THE STORY OF DIWALI

A slightly revised version of a picture book (The Story of Divaali, 2002), this is presented more appropriately as a chapter book for “confident readers.”

The tale of Rama, the titular Prince of Fire, and his bride, Sita, has been retold for centuries, starting with Valmiki’s epic poem, the Ramayana. In an adaptation informed by Tulsidas, a 16th-century poet, Verma, who grew up in East Africa and the United Kingdom and learned the story from his parents, creates a smoothly written tale of adventure and sacrifice. Rama and his brother Lakshmana fight against Ravanna, the Demon King, to win back Sita, with the assistance of Hanuman, God of the Wind (sometimes known as the monkey god), and Jatayu, King of the Birds. When Rama conquers Ravana, he wins back his bride and brings light back to his kingdom, Ayodhya. That legendary feat is celebrated annually as people set up diwas (small pottery bowls with lit wicks) and electric lights to welcome Sita (and her avatar, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth) back from the world of darkness. In this edition, the explanation of Diwali (an alternative spelling) compares the holiday not only to Christmas, but to Hanukkah and Eid as well. Mistry’s gouache illustrations are done in the ornate style typical of Hindu religious paintings and posters.

One of the world’s essential texts, presented in an accessible manner. (Folklore. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-78285-307-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE REVOLTING REVENGE OF THE RADIOACTIVE ROBO-BOXERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 10

Zipping back and forth in time atop outsized robo–bell bottoms, mad inventor Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) legs his way to center stage in this slightly less-labored continuation of episode 9.

The action commences after a rambling recap and a warning not to laugh or smile on pain of being forced to read Sarah Plain and Tall. Pilkey first sends his peevish protagonist back a short while to save the Earth (destroyed in the previous episode), then on to various prehistoric eras in pursuit of George, Harold and the Captain. It’s all pretty much an excuse for many butt jokes, dashes of off-color humor (“Tippy pressed the button on his Freezy-Beam 4000, causing it to rise from the depths of his Robo-Pants”), a lengthy wordless comic and two tussles in “Flip-o-rama.” Still, the chase kicks off an ice age, the extinction of the dinosaurs and the Big Bang (here the Big “Ka-Bloosh!”). It ends with a harrowing glimpse of what George and Harold would become if they decided to go straight. The author also chucks in a poopy-doo-doo song with musical notation (credited to Albert P. Einstein) and plenty of ink-and-wash cartoon illustrations to crank up the ongoing frenzy.

Series fans, at least, will take this outing (and clear evidence of more to come) in stride. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-17536-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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