MILLICENT’S GIFT

Millicent will soon be 14 and if she studies her Celtic mythology enough, she will be certified to use her Power, a Gift handed down to females in her family from an ancestor in 16th-century England. The ensuing story about Millicent and her family includes the mysterious death of a younger sister, an absent father, the drug-induced death of a town teenager, robberies committed by the ex-con father of Millicent’s best friend, the drug bust of twin brother Dexter’s friend, and assorted other dramas. With so much action, this should be a page-turner. But the prolific Rinaldi (Numbering All the Bones, p. 498, etc.), best known for her historical fiction, has trouble incorporating the disparate elements into a convincing or engaging whole. The point of the magic powers is never explained satisfactorily. When Millicent uses her powers to shape-shift into a deer, she intones a corny-sounding spell in language that is completely out of character and unexpectedly recalls the prologue’s Celtic reference: “And I shall go in the animal’s name, aye, and walk amongst them, and hear joys and woes, and I’ll come home again.” The busy plot and the challenges of being magical in an ordinary world seem to be grafted together in an unsuccessful operation. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-029636-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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THE LAST BOOK IN THE UNIVERSE

In this riveting futuristic novel, Spaz, a teenage boy with epilepsy, makes a dangerous journey in the company of an old man and a young boy. The old man, Ryter, one of the few people remaining who can read and write, has dedicated his life to recording stories. Ryter feels a kinship with Spaz, who unlike his contemporaries has a strong memory; because of his epilepsy, Spaz cannot use the mind probes that deliver entertainment straight to the brain and rot it in the process. Nearly everyone around him uses probes to escape their life of ruin and poverty, the result of an earthquake that devastated the world decades earlier. Only the “proovs,” genetically improved people, have grass, trees, and blue skies in their aptly named Eden, inaccessible to the “normals” in the Urb. When Spaz sets out to reach his dying younger sister, he and his companions must cross three treacherous zones ruled by powerful bosses. Moving from one peril to the next, they survive only with help from a proov woman. Enriched by Ryter’s allusions to nearly lost literature and full of intriguing, invented slang, the skillful writing paints two pictures of what the world could look like in the future—the burned-out Urb and the pristine Eden—then shows the limits and strengths of each. Philbrick, author of Freak the Mighty (1993) has again created a compelling set of characters that engage the reader with their courage and kindness in a painful world that offers hope, if no happy endings. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-08758-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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GULLIVER'S TRAVELS

Swift's account of Gulliver's captivity in Lilliput and Brobdingnag is considerably shortened and rephrased here, but Riordan expertly preserves the flavor of the original: upon reaching the temple where he is to stay, the intrepid traveler shamefacedly relieves himself before the tiny multitudes (though the more famous scene where he similarly puts out a palace fire is absent); later, he survives plenty of harrowing adventures, admiringly describing the societies in which he's stranded while taking subtle pokes (and not-so-subtle—``Englishmen are the nastiest race of odious little vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth,'' says the king of Brobdingnag) at his own, and at fashion and politics in general. Large or small, Gulliver cuts a heroic figure in Ambrus's pervasive, free-wheeling illustrations; other characters have exaggerated features and a comic air that lighten the satire and serves the narrative well. Swift's ax-grinding can be indigestible in large doses; like other abridged classics from this publisher and illustrator, a palatable, well-blended appetizer. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 1992

ISBN: 0-19-279897-9

Page Count: 94

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1992

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