Capstone offers another fun series that fractures familiar stories—this time it’s fables. Four titles give a fresh twist to three Aesop fables and one Hans Christian Andersen tale. Each book includes a cast of characters, activities, and further information. This includes a section about fables in general and the original story briefly summarized along with the moral. There is a visual guide to some of the twists in the far out fable, comparing plot points in both stories, and a section of visual questions that take a few panels from the book and ask questions that encourage kids to think about the visual cues. A glossary is also included.

The Boy Who Cried Vampire revisits “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, but, naturally, is set in a small, medieval town in Transylvania. Ion is bored with his life in his small villagehe’d rather watch old monster movies! When he starts yelling “VAMPIRE” things get interesting right away. But he didn’t expect real-life vampire Grigore to show up at his window! Is this the end for Ion, or does his story have a few more twists in store?

The traditional Aesop’s fable of the “Lion and the Mouse” gets a makeover in The Lion and the Mouse and the Invaders from Zurg, when the two of them go up against alien invaders! At first, Thunder the lion, leader of the resistance, disdains the offered help of Daisy the mouse and her small friends. But when the evil Kro’Mar the Malevolent captures all the powerful predators and locks them in his dungeon, Thunder comes to appreciate the courage and intelligence of Daisy.

The hare and the tortoise reprise their battle with a robotic twist in The Robo-Battle of Mega Tortoise vs. Hazard Hare. Every year, there’s a special competition at the Spring Jamboree. Every year, Hunter the hare wins—and rubs Shelly the tortoise’s face in her defeat. But this year will be different; there’s going to be a robot battle! And Shelly knows she’s really good at building things. What if she builds a robot that uses all of Hunter’s abilities? Will she be able to beat him? And what if Hunter cheats? Maybe Shelly has the best chance if she sticks to what she knowshard work, perseverance, and good design!

The final story is based on the classic Andersen tale of the “Ugly Duckling”. Only instead of an ugly duckling, this duck family gets The Ugly Dino Hatchling! Mama Duck and three of her four ducklings don’t care much for the ungainly and ugly Rex, but Fourth, his youngest sister, loves her big brother no matter what. Rex tries to find a place to fit in on the farm, but he sticks out even more than he does with his family, so he retreats to live alone in the forest. But when the rift in time and space that dropped his egg into Mama Duck’s nest returns, along with some very dangerous creatures, will Rex find his true place after all?

Each moral is twisted slightly to fit the story. Rex learns that he doesn’t need to change himself to fit in. Shelly discovers that hard work is the only way to reach her goals. Thunder learns not to judge people by appearances. Ion figures out that nobody trusts a liar.

Although illustrated by different artists, the style of artwork is consistent across the series. They all emphasize a cartoonish, colorful look. Lopez’s art has an appropriately creepy vein, since it is a vampire story. Despite the anomalies of flat-screen televisions, homework, and action figures, all the (white) people are dressed in old-fashioned trousers and dresses and sport pitchforks at the appropriate moments, as they pour out from their thatched cottages. Rodriguez’s art for the sci-fi epic of Thunder the lion and Daisy the mouse shows some stereotypically green and icky looking reptilian aliens. The animals all have space jumpsuits that have a little bit of a medieval tunic feel to them. The stone houses and forest camps will probably make kids think of Star Wars, and it’s hard to avoid that epic space opera when looking at a story with a typical “sci-fi rebellion” vibe. Cano has a slick, digital style of the epic robot battle of the hare and the tortoise. There’s no homemade feel about these robots, all are colorful and complete with fins, stretching legs, and plenty of weaponry and tools. Shelly (female) and Hunter (male) fit their fable’s story while staying away from gender stereotypes. Hunter is a boastful jock, with an adoring crowd of small-minded fans. Shelly, in small skirt and leggings, sticks with her faithful snail friend and works patiently to win her kudos. Otis Frampton, illustrator for The Ugly Duckling Dinosaur has the most recognizable style. He’s the creator of the Oddly Normal comic series and readers may recognize his distinctive messy hairdos, curved noses (or beaks as it may be) and suspicious eyes. Vibrant colors abound, from the bright pink of Rex the dinosaur to rich purple of night scenes.

These will make fun reads for kids who enjoy comics, even without the added dimension of the fable aspect. The stories are humorous and well-told for the most part, although there are some odd plot twists in The Ugly Duckling Dinosaur and The Boy Who Cried Vampire. Teachers planning to create units on fables or wanting to emphasize visual literacy and other narrative skills will find these useful. However, the addition of The Ugly Duckling Dinosaur, which isn’t a fable and in the original has no moral, is a quirky choice that throws off the theme of the set. Parents who prefer storytelling with pointed morals will appreciate the clear and simple lessons of the stories while kids laugh at the cartoons and, perhaps, take the lessons to heart. Overall, a fun and useful series that will be a good addition to both public and school libraries.

The Boy Who Cried Vampire
by Benjamin Harper
Art by Alex Lopez
ISBN: 9781496554215
Capstone, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 7-11

The Lion and the Mouse and the Invaders from Zurg
by Benjamin Harper
Art by Pedro Rodriguez
ISBN: 9781496554222
Capstone, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 7-11

Robo-Battle of Mega Tortoise VS. Hazard Hare
by Stephanie Peters
Art by Fernando Cano
ISBN: 9781496554208
Capstone, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 7-11

The Ugly Dino Hatchling
by Stephanie Peters
Art by Otis Frampton
ISBN: 9781496554192
Capstone, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 7-11

  • Jennifer

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Matheson Memorial Library

    Reviewer

    Jennifer Wharton is the Youth Services Librarian at Matheson Memorial Library in Elkhorn, Wisconsin where she maintains the juvenile and young adult graphic novel collections and was responsible for creating the library’s adult graphic novel collection. She is constantly looking for great new comics for kids and teens and new ways to incorporate graphic storytelling in programming. Jennifer blogs for preschool through middle grade at JeanLittleLibrary and has an MLS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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