THE OWL SERVICE

The mystery of spirits loosed, of souls possessed, assumes a dimension beyond fantasy in Alan Garner's latest book, which is his finest if also his most elliptical. In an old house in a Welsh valley three adolescents discover, in a sealed attic that has been emitting inexplicable sounds, a dinner service decorated with flowers in the form of an owl; and the trap one sets disgorges an owl's pellel, not a whole mouse. Gwyn, son of Nancy the housekeeper, is momentarily mesmerized by the plates but it is Alison, come to stay with her new stepfather and stepbrother Roger, who is obsessed with the owls. From a copy of the mythical Mabinogion and the cryptic remarks of handyman Huw Halfbacon, reinforced by the instinctive sympathy between them. Alison and Gwyn realize that they are, with Roger, reenacting an ancient tragedy of jealousy and retribution that has recurred in each generation. The tensions among them are very real, very much a matter of class; Gwyn is the clever comer, Alison is the aristocrat. Roger is the snob In scenes which approach the intensity of Strindberg, Gwyn forces Alison to face him, and herself, recoils when he thinks he's been betrayed, ultimately humbles Roger and gives him the clue to saving Alison. However gripping, this is not lugubrious and not without humer, albeit ironic. An uncommon book for uncommon readers of some maturity.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 1968

ISBN: 0152056181

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Walck

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1968

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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