Every page is stunning, like coming across an atlas that covers the entire solar system.

A FRENCHMAN ON MARS

From the Castle in the Stars series , Vol. 4

Readers may wish this graphic novel were several times taller and wider.

Alice’s illustrations showcase some of the most glorious landmarks of the solar system, circa 1871, from a castle in Prussia to a crater on the moon and the caverns and canyons of Mars. Often, there are airships floating above them, shaped like enormous birds. Fans of the series might wish the pictures were the size of turn-of-the-20th-century broadsheets, like the Little Nemo comic strips, or posters they could hang on their walls. Even the most ardent fans, who’ve read the previous volumes again and again, may be baffled by the plot, which includes multiple political factions active in multiple parts of the galaxy. But the core of the story is simple enough to follow: There are good guys and bad guys, and they fight—sometimes with airships, sometimes with psychic powers. (No matter how many factions show up, almost all of the characters are white—even a Martian princess appears, at first, to be white and blond.) Like the first three volumes, this book ends with a cliffhanger, but it does resolve most of its major plot threads. It even ends with a kiss. More important, the last page is utterly filled with aircraft, with three balloons apiece. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.3-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 78% of actual size.)

Every page is stunning, like coming across an atlas that covers the entire solar system. (Graphic steampunk. 10-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20681-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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