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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Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick.

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THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON

An elderly witch, a magical girl, a brave carpenter, a wise monster, a tiny dragon, paper birds, and a madwoman converge to thwart a magician who feeds on sorrow.

Every year Elders of the Protectorate leave a baby in the forest, warning everyone an evil Witch demands this sacrifice. In reality, every year, a kind witch named Xan rescues the babies and find families for them. One year Xan saves a baby girl with a crescent birthmark who accidentally feeds on moonlight and becomes “enmagicked.” Magic babies can be tricky, so Xan adopts little Luna herself and lovingly raises her, with help from an ancient swamp monster and a chatty, wee dragon. Luna’s magical powers emerge as her 13th birthday approaches. Meanwhile, Luna’s deranged real mother enters the forest to find her daughter. Simultaneously, a young carpenter from the Protectorate enters the forest to kill the Witch and end the sacrifices. Xan also enters the forest to rescue the next sacrificed child, and Luna, the monster, and the dragon enter the forest to protect Xan. In the dramatic denouement, a volcano erupts, the real villain attempts to destroy all, and love prevails. Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces. Luna has black eyes, curly, black hair, and “amber” skin.

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-567-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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