CRYSTAL CADETS

From the Crystal Cadets series , Vol. 1

On her birthday, a teenager learns that she is one of the Crystal Cadets, a textbook group of young, magic-wielding heroines charged with saving the world from vague, clichéd darkness.

This series opener introduces Zoe to the other Crystal Cadets: Jasmine, Olivia, Gwen, Liz, Milena, and a sixth, who is used as a plot twist. They ride fabulous creatures like winged horses and giant butterflies and use magical tools to fight off creepy people with black eyes. Zoe seems only momentarily fazed to find her parents evidently possessed before being whisked away. Glib dialogue makes the book feel trite and superficial. “Nonny, nonny boo boo. You can’t catch me!” sings a young cadet as she faces off against what looks like a toothed shadow. Attempts at puns create cringe-worthy moments: “Looks like the crystal's out of the bag!” The story was originally published as a digital comic series, and Toole’s writing offers mostly choppy transitions and is further hampered by poor worldbuilding, logic, and back story. In what feels like a halfhearted stab at grounding the story, Olivia explains, “The darkness has been around forever. It feeds on bad stuff, like fear and greed and bad manners.” If both story and illustrations remind readers of Sailor Moon, that is about par for the course. O’Neill’s depictions are fair and in the vein of manga comics, though at times they look depthless.

Skip and pass. (Graphic fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63140-431-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Roar Comics/Lion Forge

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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Middle schoolers will clamor for a transfer.

MIDDLE-SCHOOL COOL

Graduates of Wayside School will fit right in at the decidedly unconventional Kaboom Academy.

The Academy is located in a former mental situation, staffed in part by former patients and dedicated to making students fall “madly in love with learning!” It offers literary classics in easy-to-swallow pill form, games of dodgeball in which the balls vigorously throw themselves, loud gongs and cannon fire instead of bells, and character-building lunches sprinkled with “curiosity,” “honesty” and other “spices of life.” The school also has a journalism class of nine young investigative reporters—including legally blind photographer Leo and telepathic former conjoined twins Aliya and Taliya—determined to winkle out all of the Academy’s secrets. Williams weighs her episodic tale down with detailed expositions of the central cast’s unhappy pasts and troubled domestic situations, as well as heavy-handed axe grinding in repeated rants against the boring, pointless, time-wasting experience of going to normal school. Nevertheless, the mix of out-and-out magic with far-fetched but logical twists creates an enjoyably surreal romp. Also, the author shows a knack for wacky inventions, from those book pills to the climactic arrival of an Invisiblimp.

Middle schoolers will clamor for a transfer. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74349-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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THE BOY IN THE OAK

Physically slender but long on mystical atmosphere, Albarn’s debut features a mix of feathery line portraits and translucent leaves of pale, reworked photos of butterfly-wing and other natural patterns. They illustrate a short, formally told tale of Faerie retribution and redemption. In the first part, a bored, malicious lad tries to set fire to a Druidic Oak near his parents’ cottage and is embedded within the wood by angry sprites. Years later, when the Faeries try to do the same to a young girl whose parents plan to cut the tree down, the boy saves her and is released for showing compassion. The elevated language is nowhere near as polished as the pictures: “The boy awoke with a thud to his heart”; “He twisted with anxiety, wretched with his own memories and shameful of his past.” The special paper adds a misty, magical air to the page turns, however, and the insectile, sharp-tempered Faeries inject a needed thread of animation. Will tempt fans of the Spiderwick series and all things Faerie. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-897476-52-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simply Read

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2010

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