The beginning of a Harry Potter–esque series for those who prefer gross-out horror to magical whimsy.

READ REVIEW

NIGHTFALL GARDENS

In Allen’s debut YA adventure, a brother and sister must survive the horrors of their mystical ancestral home and the haunted gardens that surround it.

Lily Blackwood and her brother, Silas, live a transient life as actors in their family’s low-budget stage show, an awkward steppingstone that Lily believes will one day lead her to fame and the adoration of crowds. Lily’s dreams crumble when her uncle Jonquil, a mysterious, rough-looking man draped in a wolf fur, kidnaps her and her brother and delivers them to their family’s original home—the otherworldly Nightfall Gardens—a preternatural land where creatures of myths and fairy tales are both real and deadly. It’s Lily’s birthright and curse to become the new matriarch of this estate, to guard and maintain it, and to keep the darkness of the gardens contained. While she is quarantined inside the house, timid Silas is sent into the gardens as the mystical groundskeeper’s new assistant. The knowledge he gains among the arboreal evil, when combined with his sister’s defiant ambition for a life beyond Nightfall’s gates, leaves the children poised to challenge the dark fate that has descended upon them. Allen’s novel starts swiftly, bringing Lily and Silas into the spectacle and danger of Nightfall as quickly as possible, then the pace slows to a pleasant amble to adequately highlight each gruesome experience. The novel thrives when depicting the bizarre and dangerous: cocoon-sleeping slug women; mummy butlers that are falling apart; vengeful corpse eaters; and even the heroes’ closest ally, a green-skinned tomboy. Still, with so much focus on frightening imagery, the novel doesn’t build much suspense, leaning more toward the gross than the scary. This is not necessarily a flaw. Many YA novels aren’t looking to utterly terrify their readers, and intriguing mysteries and foreshadowed threats for the Blackwood children in the second volume easily offset any flagging tension.

The beginning of a Harry Potter–esque series for those who prefer gross-out horror to magical whimsy.

Pub Date: May 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0615804453

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Flycatcher Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2013

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The book is perfect for read-alouds, with occasional, often onomatopoeic Spanish words such as “quiquiriquí,” “tacatac” and...

WAITING FOR THE BIBLIOBURRO

Inspired by Colombian librarian Luis Soriano Bohórquez, Brown’s latest tells of a little girl whose wish comes true when a librarian and two book-laden burros visit her remote village.

Ana loves to read and spends all of her free time either reading alone or to her younger brother. She knows every word of the one book she owns. Although she uses her imagination to create fantastical bedtime tales for her brother, she really wants new books to read. Everything changes when a traveling librarian and his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto, arrive in the village. Besides loaning books to the children until his next visit, the unnamed man also reads them stories and teaches the younger children the alphabet. When Ana suggests that someone write a book about the traveling library, he encourages her to complete this task herself. After she reads her library books, Ana writes her own story for the librarian and gives it to him upon his reappearance—and he makes it part of his biblioburro collection. Parra’s colorful folk-style illustrations of acrylics on board bring Ana’s real and imaginary worlds to life. This is a child-centered complement to Jeanette Winter’s Biblioburro (2010), which focuses on Soriano.

The book is perfect for read-alouds, with occasional, often onomatopoeic Spanish words such as “quiquiriquí,” “tacatac” and “iii-aah” adding to the fun.   (author’s note, glossary of Spanish terms) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58246-353-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tricycle

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2011

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With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating...

FRINDLE

Nicholas is a bright boy who likes to make trouble at school, creatively. 

When he decides to torment his fifth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Granger (who is just as smart as he is), by getting everyone in the class to replace the word "pen'' with "frindle,'' he unleashes a series of events that rapidly spins out of control. If there's any justice in the world, Clements (Temple Cat, 1995, etc.) may have something of a classic on his hands. By turns amusing and adroit, this first novel is also utterly satisfying. The chess-like sparring between the gifted Nicholas and his crafty teacher is enthralling, while Mrs. Granger is that rarest of the breed: a teacher the children fear and complain about for the school year, and love and respect forever after. 

With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating tale—one to press upon children, and one they'll be passing among themselves. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-689-80669-8

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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