Rejoice, noodlehead fans! Here’s a tale to treasure.

The adventures of a kindly if naïve wizard who wouldn’t mind being crowned this year’s Harvest Hero.

In a tale that will charm the pants off readers, moony young Gumluck—looking a proper “buggy-bumper” in the acid words of surly raven narrator Helvetica—uncomplainingly dishes out magical favors to unappreciative locals in hopes they’ll vote for him for Harvest Hero at the upcoming Harvest Dance. It doesn’t look likely, as “Prince Whoop-de-doo,” who looks like “a fancy toilet brush” (Helvetica, again), always wins because his royal dad counts the votes. But after venturing into the Haunted Forest and emerging with both a lost child and a tiny ghost, enduring a disheartening visit from the Truth Fairy, and saving everyone when the king’s castle falls off its steep hill, all comes right for Gumluck in the end. Meanwhile, Gumluck has time to consider deep questions like whether a lie can be good and a truth bad. “Truth is good,” the wizard concludes, “but I think helping is better.” By the end he’s even won over Helvetica, who christens him a “darling old noodlehead.” So he is, in the finest tradition of noodleheads the world around. His short, beardless, light-skinned figure shares space with lightly caricatured companions and townsfolk (some of whom appear to be of color) in the monochrome pencil drawings that decorate or sometimes fill nearly every page.

Rejoice, noodlehead fans! Here’s a tale to treasure. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2023

ISBN: 9781797213231

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2023


From the Silver Arrow series , Vol. 2

Gentle, encouraging, witty fantasy that may soothe readers suffering from climate anxiety.

Children with magical talking steam trains are thrilled by their clever new plan to rescue endangered animals.

Eleven-year-old Kate absolutely adores her secret job—helping animals in need by using the magical locomotive that was a gift from her billionaire wizard uncle. Kate loves riding the Silver Arrow with Uncle Herbert; her brother, Tom; and the talking animals they escort to safe places. But now Uncle Herbert is missing, 9-year-old Tom seems more interested in hapkido than their supernatural train, and Kate’s struggling socially and academically thanks to her eco-anxiety. No matter how many animals she helps, no matter how many adults proclaim that climate change is a critical issue, the environment keeps getting worse. One night Kate discovers another train driving on the magical railroad: The Golden Swift is conducted by her classmate Jag, who thinks rescuing stranded creatures isn’t sufficiently radical. When Kate joins him, she feels more inspired and more righteous than ever before. This time, she’s actually making the world better! Kate’s unhappy discoveries of unintended consequences and the moral complexities of her activism are softened by humor. The snarky banter of the talking locomotive is an understated delight, as is the train constructed with, among others, candy and ice cream cars, an invisible car, and a dojo car. Kate and Tom are White; Jag is described as having dark skin and black hair and possibly being Indian. Charming illustrations enhance the text.

Gentle, encouraging, witty fantasy that may soothe readers suffering from climate anxiety. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-28354-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022


From the Alien Superstar series , Vol. 1

A decent start to a silly sci-fi series.

An extraterrestrial teen refugee becomes a Hollywood star.

Citizen Short Nose, a 13-year-old, blue-skinned, six-eyed, bipedal ET, has left his home world in an effort to escape the authoritarian forces that reign there. The teen runaway lands his spacecraft in the middle of Universal Studios and easily blends in among the tourists and actors in movie costumes. Citizen Short Nose quickly changes his name to Buddy C. Burger and befriends Luis Rivera, an 18-year-old Latinx actor who moonlights as Frankenstein on the Universal lot. Inspired to be an actor by his grandmother Wrinkle’s love of Earth culture, Buddy lands a gig on Oddball Academy, playing (of course) an alien from another world. On set, Buddy befriends Cassidy Cambridge, the brown-skinned teen star of the show. Buddy balances keeping his true identity secret (everyone just assumes he’s wearing an alien costume) with becoming an overnight sensation. The book is efficiently written, moving the story forward so quickly that readers won’t have time to think too hard about the bizarre circumstances necessary for the whole thing to work. This series opener’s big problem is the ending: The story just stops. Characters are established and plot mechanics are put together, but the book basically trusts readers to show up for the next installment. Those enamored with Hollywood gags and sci-fi plot boiling will probably be engaged enough to do so.

A decent start to a silly sci-fi series. (Science fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3369-7

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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