A solid friendship tale for fans of eerie fantasy

In an everyday modern school, a girl who lost her parents to monsters meets a monstrously strange boy.

Bavar’s a friendless, “sallow” boy in an ordinary school. He has a powerful ability to avoid notice until he meets Angel, a new girl living with a foster family. Angel, who misses her dead parents constantly, sees through Bavar’s reality-warping glamour to his uncanny reality: he’s 7 feet tall with pointed teeth. Bavar, she discovers, lives in a gargoyle-adorned Gothic pile of a house where he fights massive winged beasts. Bavar’s gruesome opponents, in fact, look exactly like the fell creatures who killed Angel’s parents last year. Though Bavar wants to avoid the fate of all in his magical family—spending a lifetime battling the poison-clawed raksasa—Angel proposes a more permanent solution. In Bavar’s sentient home, peopled by his loving aunt and uncle and the (both hair-raising and supportive) talking portraits of his ancestors, they seek answers. The growing humor and affection between these two awkward protagonists create an appealing contrast with the choppy, gloomy prose. Ham-handed Americanization of this novel (first published in England as A Far Away Magic) has left the setting a muddle, with American vocabulary inconsistently plunked into British-sounding sentences. Bavar and his family are white-appearing in their human guises; Angel is white.

A solid friendship tale for fans of eerie fantasy . (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267151-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018


Cinematic, over-the-top decadence, a tense race against time, and lessons on what’s truly valuable.

A reward of $5,000,000 almost ruins everything for two seventh graders.

On a class trip to New York City, Felix and Benji find a wallet belonging to social media billionaire Laura Friendly. Benji, a well-off, chaotic kid with learning disabilities, swipes $20 from the wallet before they send it back to its owner. Felix, a poor, shy, rule-follower, reluctantly consents. So when Laura Friendly herself arrives to give them a reward for the returned wallet, she’s annoyed. To teach her larcenous helpers a lesson, Laura offers them a deal: a $20,000 college scholarship or slightly over $5 million cash—but with strings attached. The boys must spend all the money in 30 days, with legal stipulations preventing them from giving anything away, investing, or telling anyone about it. The glorious windfall quickly grows to become a chore and then a torment as the boys appear increasingly selfish and irresponsible to the adults in their lives. They rent luxury cars, hire a (wonderful) philosophy undergrad as a chauffeur, take their families to Disney World, and spend thousands on in-app game purchases. Yet, surrounded by hedonistically described piles of loot and filthy lucre, the boys long for simpler fundamentals. The absorbing spending spree reads like a fun family film, gleefully stuffed with the very opulence it warns against. Major characters are White.

Cinematic, over-the-top decadence, a tense race against time, and lessons on what’s truly valuable. (mathematical explanations) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-17525-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020


On equal footing with a garden-variety potato.

The new kid in school endures becoming the school mascot.

Ben Hardy has never cared for potatoes, and this distaste has become a barrier to adjusting to life in his new Idaho town. His school’s mascot is the Spud, and after a series of misfortunes, Ben is enlisted to don the potato costume and cheer on his school’s team. Ben balances his duties as a life-sized potato against his desperate desire to hide the fact that he’s the dork in the suit. After all, his cute new crush, Jayla, wouldn’t be too impressed to discover Ben’s secret. The ensuing novel is a fairly boilerplate middle–grade narrative: snarky tween protagonist, the crush that isn’t quite what she seems, and a pair of best friends that have more going on than our hero initially believes. The author keeps the novel moving quickly, pushing forward with witty asides and narrative momentum so fast that readers won’t really mind that the plot’s spine is one they’ve encountered many times before. Once finished, readers will feel little resonance and move on to the next book in their to-read piles, but in the moment the novel is pleasant enough. Ben, Jayla, and Ben’s friend Hunter are white while Ellie, Ben’s other good pal, is Latina.

On equal footing with a garden-variety potato. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11866-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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