A good pick for fairy-tale fans, especially those battling their own fears.

THE REAL BOY

An isolated, insecure orphan living in magical Aletheia becomes a “real boy” when his ordered world crumbles and he must rely on himself.

Since coming to the Barrow, 11-year-old, autistic Oscar has lived in magician Caleb’s cellar, where he performs menial tasks preparing herbs. The Barrow encircles a shining, walled town whose privileged residents depend on the Barrow’s magic smiths to supply them with protective potions, salves, charms and spells. Clueless about people, Oscar loves plants, including the wizard trees that infuse the Barrow’s soil with magic. When urgent business takes Caleb away, his apprentice is murdered, and Oscar must run Caleb’s shop. Lacking social skills, Oscar longs to fold “up, like an envelope,” but he manages the shop with help from a kindhearted girl who befriends him. Suddenly, more terrible things happen: Children begin to ail, wizard trees are felled, and a sinister creature kills Caleb and threatens the Barrow. Determined to find why magic no longer protects everyone and burdened with many characteristics of autism, the unlikely Oscar realizes it’s up to him. Incorporating fairy-tale elements, Oscar’s story unfolds slowly as he overcomes his phobias and discovers that friendship trumps magic any day. Black-and-white illustrations capture story highlights.

A good pick for fairy-tale fans, especially those battling their own fears. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-201507-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET.

The comical longings of little girls who want to be big girls—exercising to the chant of "We must—we must—increase our bust!"—and the wistful longing of Margaret, who talks comfortably to God, for a religion, come together as her anxiety to be normal, which is natural enough in sixth grade.

And if that's what we want to tell kids, this is a fresh, unclinical case in point: Mrs. Blume (Iggie's House, 1969) has an easy way with words and some choice ones when the occasion arises. But there's danger in the preoccupation with the physical signs of puberty—with growing into a Playboy centerfold, the goal here, though the one girl in the class who's on her way rues it; and with menstruating sooner rather than later —calming Margaret, her mother says she was a late one, but the happy ending is the first drop of blood: the effect is to confirm common anxieties instead of allaying them. (And countertrends notwithstanding, much is made of that first bra, that first dab of lipstick.) More promising is Margaret's pursuit of religion: to decide for herself (earlier than her 'liberal' parents intended), she goes to temple with a grandmother, to church with a friend; but neither makes any sense to her—"Twelve is very late to learn." Fortunately, after a disillusioning sectarian dispute, she resumes talking to God…to thank him for that telltale sign of womanhood.

Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1970

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1397-8

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1970

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Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around...

THE SEASON OF STYX MALONE

Cooler-than-cool newcomer Styx Malone takes the more-sheltered brothers Caleb and Bobby Gene on a mischievous, path-altering, summer adventure of a lifetime as they embrace the extraordinary possibilities beyond the everyday in rural Indiana.

Readers may think an adventure such as they’ll find here wouldn’t be possible in the present day; this story takes place outside, where nature, know-how, creativity, and curiosity rule. Creeks, dirt roads, buried treasures, and more make up the landscape in Sutton, Indiana. Younger brother Caleb narrates, letting readers know from the outset that he’s tired of his dad’s racially tinged determination that they be safely ordinary: “I don’t want to be ordinary. I want to be…the other thing.” With Styx Malone around, Caleb and Bobby Gene will sure figure out what that “other thing” can become. The three black adolescents are enchanted with the miracle of the Great Escalator Trade, the mythic one-thing-leads-to-another bartering scheme that just might get them farther from Sutton than they’ve ever dreamed. As they get deeper and deeper into cahoots with Styx, they begin to notice that Styx harbors some secret ambitions of his own, further twisting this grand summer journey. “How do you move through the world knowing that you’re special, when no one else can see it?” begs the soul of this novel.

Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around them, striving to be more otherwise than ordinary. Please share. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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