A sometimes flat narrative about a good-hearted heroine, an enchanted forest and a magic unicorn that needs polishing in...


In Scheidemann’s book for young readers, the first of a planned series, a young girl braves an enchanted forest to find a special herb to heal her ailing father.

Allegra Sonata, a “fair young maiden” living in “olden times,” hopes that she may find a cure for her father’s illness when she learns of an herb with special healing powers. The catch: The medicinal plant can be found only in a village on the other side of an enchanted forest that “no one dared to enter.” Unfortunately, Scheidemann too quickly undermines that hint of suspense by giving Allegra a convenient touch of amnesia: “Now what was that warning about the forest? I can’t seem to remember it....” The author’s heroine then walks “into the bewitched forest without even thinking.” In the forest, following an encounter with a helpful butterfly, Allegra is briefly menaced by talking salamanders and just as briefly attacked by a predatory plant with “long, spiny leaves” before an obliging unicorn comes to Allegra’s rescue and guides her. The end of the quest is fast and anticlimactic. Allegra easily locates the herb in a villager’s garden and, accompanied by the unicorn, has an uneventful trip home. The unicorn plays no further part in the story. Overall, Scheidemann sets up imaginative situations. Exploring them further, however, might have realized their entertaining potential.  Instead, perhaps because of the author’s concern that the book’s vocabulary and sentence construction should be appropriate for younger readers, the narrative and dialogue periodically sag. Allegra to the unicorn: “Okay, I got the herb that I needed. Now I have to get back to my village. Please help me back through the forest.” A similar dullness is found in the book’s static, repetitive cutout-style images of Allegra, trees and houses. A more professional visual approach would add considerable interest.

A sometimes flat narrative about a good-hearted heroine, an enchanted forest and a magic unicorn that needs polishing in order to reach its colorful potential.

Pub Date: June 21, 2012

ISBN: 9781470108519

Page Count: 30

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2012

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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A riveting novel that will have readers rooting for its star.

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A teenager faces seemingly insurmountable challenges in this riveting modern-day spinoff of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

For Ana Dakkar and her fellow ninth graders at Harding-Pencroft Academy, there is nothing more momentous than the weekend trials each student must ace at the end of freshman year. Students who fail to showcase their survival skills are asked to leave the academy, a heavily guarded place Ana has thought of as home since the mysterious deaths of her parents. Though Ana’s brother, Dev, is a senior, what happens at trials is such a closely guarded secret that no one in her year knows what to expect. While her group is out on the water for their trials, Harding-Pencroft is demolished in an attack orchestrated by a rival school. As Ana and her classmates discover that the events depicted in Jules Verne’s classic novels were real, Riordan’s lifelong love of the source material is clear—especially when Ana learns information that will help her find a way to protect the group. A foreword by Roshani Chokshi introduces this adventure that is both great entertainment and centers a well-developed protagonist who is thoughtfully shown dealing with loss. Ana is of Bundeli Indian descent, and her group of peers, who are diverse in various ways, experience losses and struggles of their own. (Final illustrations not seen.)

A riveting novel that will have readers rooting for its star. (Harding-Pencroft Academy guide, cast list) (Adventure. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-07792-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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