A series opener that’s proof that windows and mirrors can be magical ingredients

A DASH OF TROUBLE

From the Love Sugar Magic series , Vol. 1

In the small town of Rose Hill, Texas, the Logroño family runs a truly magical bakery in Meriano’s debut.

Leo, short for Leonora, is the youngest of five sisters in a Mexican-American family. Leo feels left out as the older girls step up to help run the family bakery while she watches from the sidelines. Convinced that secrets are being kept from her, Leo skips school to do some reconnaissance and stumbles upon, first, the other women of the family participating in a mysterious ceremony and then, later, an old book titled Recetas de amor, azúcar, y magia, or Recipes of Love, Sugar, and Magic. When eldest sister Isabel discovers Leo with the book, she confirms Leo’s suspicions that something is being kept from her: the women of her family are brujas, or witches. Though Isabel warns her against it, Leo decides to pursue her magical training independently, guided by the enigmatic recipe book, and uses the recipes to help her friends out of sticky situations. When things inevitably misfire, Leo finds she is on her own to right her magical mistakes. In this weave of Mexican, Texan, and American cultures, readers are sure to find mirrors to their own experiences and windows onto others, all wrapped in a fantastical bow. Scrupulously avoiding tokenism, Meriano builds a wonderful contemporary world in small-town Texas, full of diverse characters, where magic feels right at home and muggles will feel equally welcome.

A series opener that’s proof that windows and mirrors can be magical ingredients . (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-249846-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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The young folk and (of course) the animals are engagingly wrought in this tale with a strong ecological message.

WILLODEEN

An orphan loner’s small town faces a hard future after it unwittingly disrupts a natural cycle.

Willodeen is lucky that elderly retired thespians Mae and Birdie took her in after the wildfire that killed her parents and brother, not only because they’re a loving couple, but because they let her roam the woods in search of increasingly rare screechers—creatures so vile-tempered and stinky that the village elders of Perchance have put a bounty on them. The elders have other worries, though: The migratory hummingbears that have long nested in the area, drawing tourists to the lucrative annual Autumn Faire, have likewise nearly vanished. Could there be a connection? If there is, Willodeen is just the person to find it—but who would believe her? Applegate’s characters speak in pronouncements about life and nature that sometimes seem to address readers more than other characters, but the winsome illustrations lighten the thematic load. Screechers appear much like comically fierce warthogs and hummingbears, as small teddies with wings. Applegate traces a burgeoning friendship between her traumatized protagonist and Connor, a young artist who turns found materials into small animals so realistic that one actually comes to life. In the end, the townsfolk do listen and pitch in to make amends. Red-haired, gray-eyed Willodeen is cued as White; Connor has brown skin, and other human characters read as White by default.

The young folk and (of course) the animals are engagingly wrought in this tale with a strong ecological message. (Eco-fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-14740-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action.

THE SILVER ARROW

The best birthday present is a magical train full of talking animals—and a new job.

On Kate’s 11th birthday, she’s surprised by the arrival of rich Uncle Herbert. Uncle Herbert bears a gift: a train. Not a toy train, a 102.36-ton steam engine, with cars that come later. When Kate and her brother, Tom, both white, play in the cab of the Silver Arrow, the train starts up, zooming to a platform packed with animals holding tickets. Thus begins Kate and Tom’s hard work: They learn to conduct the train and feed the fire box, instructed by the Silver Arrow, which speaks via printed paper tape. The Silver Arrow is a glorious playground: The library car is chockablock with books while the candy car is brimful of gobstoppers and gummy bears. But amid the excitement of whistle-blowing and train conducting, Kate and Tom learn quiet messages from their animal friends. Some species, like gray squirrels and starlings, are “invaders.” The too-thin polar bear’s train platform has melted, leaving it almost drowned. Their new calling is more than just feeding the coal box—they need to find a new balance in a damaged world. “Feeling guilty doesn’t help anything,” the mamba tells them. Humans have survived so effectively they’ve taken over the world; now, he says, “you just have to take care of it.” (Illustrations not seen.)

Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53953-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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