Fast-moving and exuberant, packed with imagination.


From the Casey Grimes series , Vol. 1

A boy and his little sister uncover an otherworldly woodland academy in Vanderhorst’s middle-grade debut.

Casey Grimes, 11, has been invisible for the last three months—ever since he and his family moved to Vintage Woods, Oregon. The invisibility is effective rather than literal. People tend not to notice him and forget about him after a few seconds. School has been difficult, but Casey’s life is about to change. First he discovers a gargantuan oak tree with a fortress in its uppermost branches. Then he learns that his 6-year-old sister, Gloria, has also been suffering the effects of invisibility. Casey and Gloria sleep out in the tree and meet Luci, a girl who not only can see them both, but who comes from another world. Luci lives in Sylvan Woods, an enchanted forest upon which the regular forest is overlaid. She attends Trickery School, where young Sylvans learn ways to combat the deadly monsters that threaten both the Sylvan and regular worlds. Casey desperately wants to attend Trickery School. But can he and Gloria fit in by pretending to be Luci’s cousins? Moreover, can they save Sylvan Woods from a killer infestation of Butcher Beasts? Vanderhorst employs a simple narrative style to good effect. Descriptions are sparing but sufficient. The dialogue is age-appropriate. The book comprises short chapters—71 in all!—and the reader is drawn ever forward, accompanying Casey and Gloria on a steppingstone path of small mysteries and action scenes. Sylvan Woods is a splendid conception, all the more so perhaps because it carries a magical feel even while its inhabitants judge magic itself to be passé. Vanderhorst has a real knack for characterization. Casey and Gloria share a beautifully realized brother-sister dynamic, and Luci has a strong-willed personality. The adult characters, too, are memorable in their brief appearances. If the writing has faults, they are that the interpersonal conflicts form and resolve somewhat abruptly and that the narrative drive occasionally rushes past moments that deserve a more lingering treatment (the fate of Old ThunderSnot the bloodhound, for instance). Such urgency has its upside, though. Young readers will be enthralled throughout.

Fast-moving and exuberant, packed with imagination. (Fiction, 8-10)

Pub Date: April 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-947796-45-4

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Intense Publications

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.


From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller


From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?