Elizabeth's Midnight

A transformative tale for those who believe in magic and in a young girl’s heart—a grandmother’s too.

A socially awkward teenager discovers her true self in this fantasy-laced YA novel.

“Hunted by guardians from another world, hidden puzzles more than sixty years old, an impossible quest. And a beautiful girl in trouble,” says young Frenchman Quince, pretty much summing up the plot of Ritchey’s (Long Live the Suicide King, 2014, etc.) latest novel. The beautiful girl Quince is wooing is Beth, who begins the book thinking she’s ugly and fat and whose sad back story includes betrayal by her best friend and abandonment by her father. Her toxic mother constantly berates her, aligning with her younger sisters (think wicked stepmother and stepsisters, minus the “step”). Beth’s one joy is visiting her grandmother in the nursing home. Grandma May, however, plans to escape the facility and, with Beth’s help, fly to Paris to connect with Prince Phillip, a man she loved and left over six decades ago. But was he a man or, as Grandma explains, royalty from another planet who came to Earth with magic spells to fight the Nazis? Her tales of their adventures are interspersed with troubling senior moments that make Beth wonder whether May is actually senile. Regardless, Beth vows to get her to France. In the process, she outmaneuvers menacing tattooed “painted men” who follow her and May, meets cutie Quince, and decodes clues in Phillip-authored poetry that lead to treasure caches and perhaps to the prince himself. Beth transforms herself along the way from dowdy, insecure Bethie (a nickname she hates), always wearing a big, blue coat that is “her armor,” into the pretty, brave, titular Elizabeth: stylish, standing up to her mother, and falling in love. The story moves quickly, and the relationship between Elizabeth and Quince is flirty fun. Even though Elizabeth’s parents are terribly flawed, Ritchey kindly offers explanations for their behaviors. Scenes featuring Elizabeth’s French friends are especially enjoyable, but the cache (i.e., treasure) hunts can be confusing, and Grandma’s box of items from Phillip deserves a better name than her “special-special.”

A transformative tale for those who believe in magic and in a young girl’s heart—a grandmother’s too.

Pub Date: May 7, 2015


Page Count: -

Publisher: Black Arrow Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2015


Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.

Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021


A stocking stuffer par excellence, just right for dishing up with milk and cookies.

Pigeon finds something better to drive than some old bus.

This time it’s Santa delivering the fateful titular words, and with a “Ho. Ho. Whoa!” the badgering begins: “C’mon! Where’s your holiday spirit? It would be a Christmas MIRACLE! Don’t you want to be part of a Christmas miracle…?” Pigeon is determined: “I can do Santa stuff!” Like wrapping gifts (though the accompanying illustration shows a rather untidy present), delivering them (the image of Pigeon attempting to get an oversize sack down a chimney will have little ones giggling), and eating plenty of cookies. Alas, as Willems’ legion of young fans will gleefully predict, not even Pigeon’s by-now well-honed persuasive powers (“I CAN BE JOLLY!”) will budge the sleigh’s large and stinky reindeer guardian. “BAH. Also humbug.” In the typically minimalist art, the frustrated feathered one sports a floppily expressive green and red elf hat for this seasonal addition to the series—but then discards it at the end for, uh oh, a pair of bunny ears. What could Pigeon have in mind now? “Egg delivery, anyone?”

A stocking stuffer par excellence, just right for dishing up with milk and cookies. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781454952770

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

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