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


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

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

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. 18, 2019


A joyful celebration.

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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