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

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THE ALLEGRA SERIES: THE ENCHANTED FOREST

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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A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes.

THE TOWER OF NERO

From the Trials of Apollo series , Vol. 5

In this tumultuous series closer, Apollo, transformed into a mortal teenager, takes on both a deified emperor in a luxurious Manhattan high-rise and an older adversary.

Lester/Apollo’s coast-to-coast quest reaches its climactic stage as, with help from both eager squads of fledgling demigods from Camp Half-Blood and reluctant allies from realms deep below New York, he invades the palatial lair of Emperor Nero—followed by a solo bout with another foe from a past struggle. Riordan lays on the transformation of the heedless, arrogant sun god to a repentant lover of his long-neglected semidivine offspring and of humanity in general, which has served as the series’ binding theme, thickly enough to have his humbled narrator even apologizing (twice!) to his underwear for having to change it periodically. Still, the author delivers a fast, action-driven plot with high stakes, lots of fighting, and occasional splashes of gore brightened by banter and silly bits, so readers aren’t likely to mind all the hand-wringing. He also leaves any real-life parallels to the slick, megalomaniacal, emotionally abusive Nero entirely up to readers to discern and dishes out just deserts all round, neatly tying up loose ends in a set of closing vignettes. The supporting cast is predominantly White, with passing mention of diverse representation.

A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes. (glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4645-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger.

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE SKELETON ROAD

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 6

The monster-fighting gang from Wakefield departs on a post-apocalyptic road trip.

In this sixth installment of the heavily illustrated, Netflix-adapted series, quirky Jack Sullivan and his friends June, Quint, and Dirk finally leave their creature-ridden town in search of the ultimate baddie, Thrull, who previously deceived them. The quartet takes their tricked-out ride (an armored RV named Bad Mama) onto the open road (with Jack’s Zombie Squad in tow) to find the Outpost, where they believe a certain monster will be able to give them the location of the evil Tower where they believe Thrull now resides. Of course, the journey is littered with all kinds of nightmarish beasts and pitfalls (including an epic water park battle and slime-dripping baby monster), but the kids persist, armed with their endless gadgets and quick thinking. As the group races toward Thrull, the action culminates with an achingly tantalizing cliffhanger; expect audible groans and vociferous demands for the next installment. Fans of this series will revel in this fast-paced escapade with its recognizable black-and-white illustrations and trademark humor. Readers new to the series or those who are only familiar with the animated show may be a bit put off by this later volume that relies heavily on its own language of monsters and weapons. Jack, June, and Dirk are light-skinned; Quint is dark-skinned.

Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger. (Graphic fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984835-34-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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