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

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Elizabeth's Midnight

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

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Black Arrow Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2015

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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DIARY OF A WIMPY KID

A NOVEL IN CARTOONS

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 1

First volume of a planned three, this edited version of an ongoing online serial records a middle-school everykid’s triumphs and (more often) tribulations through the course of a school year. Largely through his own fault, mishaps seem to plague Greg at every turn, from the minor freak-outs of finding himself permanently seated in class between two pierced stoners and then being saddled with his mom for a substitute teacher, to being forced to wrestle in gym with a weird classmate who has invited him to view his “secret freckle.” Presented in a mix of legible “hand-lettered” text and lots of simple cartoon illustrations with the punch lines often in dialogue balloons, Greg’s escapades, unwavering self-interest and sardonic commentary are a hoot and a half—certain to elicit both gales of giggles and winces of sympathy (not to mention recognition) from young readers. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8109-9313-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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