An earnestly optimistic and uplifting fairy tale.

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THE ORPHANAGE OF MIRACLES

Neftzger (Confessions from a Moving Van, 2012) makes a promising entry into young-adult fantasy with this sincere, whimsical allegory that’s built on the trope of the hero’s quest and explores themes of freedom, creativity and teamwork.

In a country where a sorcerer confuses perceptions so deeply that the people don’t know whether their war against him is even real, young Kelsey, hoping to help her family, begins a journey to find the rumored Orphanage of Miracles. Kelsey purchases a jar of bad memories as a shortcut to building character; a mishap with the jar brings her a silent but wise boy, whom everyone naturally loves, as a traveling companion. A talking leopard they meet in the woods agrees to be their guide to traverse changing lands and evade guardians who seem to block their way. Meanwhile, deep within a forest no one dares enter, the orphanage hoards sparkling, jewellike miracles in a locked garden for the king, while the children in the strange boarding school have lost the ability to even read. Friends Jovan, Maggie and Nicholas spend their days trying to catch miracles in butterfly nets, mine them from underground or create them in a laboratory.  They also anxiously cultivate the individual plants they have been assigned, knowing that if a child’s plant dies, he disappears from the orphanage as if he never existed. But they long to solve the mystery of why, despite the elaborate systems the adults have built, they have never seen the discovery of a miracle. The presentation of morality lessons at the story’s end is uncharacteristically heavy-handed but in line with the stylized nature of the story, offering the reader a happy ending in which the seekers are enlightened, the misguided corrected, all wrongs are righted and generosity and wisdom prevail. And although the final message may feel mundane, the road by which Neftzger approaches it is playful and creative.

An earnestly optimistic and uplifting fairy tale.

Pub Date: May 28, 2013

ISBN: 978-0984803484

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Fog Ink

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2013

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

A killer thriller.

THREE HOURS IN PARIS

Black takes time out from chronicling the neighborhood-themed exploits of half-French detective Aimée Leduc to introduce a heroine as American as apple pie.

Kate Rees never expected to see Paris again, especially not under these circumstances. Born and bred in rural Oregon, she earned a scholarship to the Sorbonne, where she met Dafydd, a handsome Welshman who stole her heart. The start of World War II finds the couple stationed in the Orkney Islands, where Kate impresses Alfred Stepney of the War Department with the rifle skills she developed helping her dad and five brothers protect the family’s cattle. After unimaginable tragedy strikes, Stepney recruits Kate for a mission that will allow her to channel her newly ignited rage against the Germans who’ve just invaded France. She’s parachuted into the countryside, where her fluent French should help her blend in. Landing in a field, she hops a milk train to Paris, where she plans to shoot Adolf Hitler as he stands on the steps of Sacre-Coeur. Instead, she kills his admiral and has to flee through the streets of Paris, struggling to hook up with the rescuers who are supposed to extract her. Meanwhile, Gunter Hoffman, a career policeman in a wartime assignment with the Reichssicherheitsdienst security forces, is charged with finding the assassin who dared attempt to kill the Führer. It’s hard to see how it can end well for both the cop and the cowgirl. The heroine’s flight is too episodic to capitalize on Black’s skill at character development, but she’s great at raising readers’ blood pressure.

A killer thriller.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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CINDERELLA

This companion piece to the other fairy tales Marcia Brown has interpreted (see Puss In Boots, 1952, p. 548 and others) has the smoothness of a good translation and a unique charm to her feathery light pictures. The pictures have been done in sunset colors and the spreads on each page as they illustrate the story have the cumulative effect of soft cloud banks. Gentle.

Pub Date: June 15, 1954

ISBN: 0684126761

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1954

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