LAVENDER-GREEN MAGIC

THE MAGIC BOOKS #5

Set somewhere in the rural South of both the present and colonial days and rooted in old time herb lore, this is one of Andre Norton's more mundane and unassuming fantasies. Three children, Judy, Crock and Holly, are sent to live with their grandparents who are caretakers of the abandoned Dimsdale mansion and of the local junkyard, which seems to be a steady source of restorable antiques. One of the first old treasures Holly discovers, an embroidered herb pillow, has the power to transport the children through the old, overgrown maze garden and back several centuries where they become embroiled in the competition between two sister witches — the virtuous Tamar and the scheming Hagar. As always, Norton weaves an ingenious plot; only one witch is remembered in the local legend and the discovery of the dual witches is made the direct outgrowth of Holly's own two-sided nature which vacillates between spitefulness and generosity. And the herbal magic and country crafts, though by now ubiquitous accessories to juvenile fiction, are satisfactorily substantial. One aspect of the story is, however, awkward and unconvincing: Judy, Crock and Holly are supposed to be black children, but this is somehow difficult to believe. Their schoolmates apparently are totally without prejudice and Holly's defensiveness (she is afraid someone will call her "black") is presented as unfounded in fact and wins her little sympathy, even among her family. If, unlike Holly, one doesn't mistrust the continually insisted upon prevailing colorblindness, then the rest is easy — and the directions for lavender fans, rose beads and fuzzie-muzzies will make everyone want to turn herbalist.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2006

ISBN: 0765353016

Page Count: 274

Publisher: T.Y. Crowell

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1974

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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