MIDNIGHT MAGIC

Conspiracies, intrigue, murder, deceit, apparitions, dusty secret passages, false identities, a clever investigator, and his loyal if credulous young servant: Avi’s new page-turner has it all. Not long after scholarly old Mangus is forced into renouncing magical powers he never claimed to possess, he is abruptly summoned to the nearby Castello Pergamontio; it seems that Princess Teresina, 10, claims to have seen a ghost. His servant and narrator, Fabrizio, soon discovers that the situation is far from cut-and-dried; the heir, Prince Lorenzo, is gone, perhaps murdered, and the princess is about to be secretly married to sinister Count Scarazoni—unless the superstitious King Claudio calls the wedding off. Mangus, who doesn—t believe in the supernatural, says the ghost is not real, but Fabrizio has no doubt after seeing a gesticulating, weirdly lit figure. Then Teresina’s tutor is found dead. Enmeshing his protagonist in webs of conflicting plots and alliances, Avi brings the suspenseful plot to a climactic boil in which Scarazoni is tricked into confessing that he killed both the tutor and the prince—or tried to, as Lorenzo has been around the whole time, disguised as a kitchen boy. Readers, especially fans of John Bellairs’s books, will be riveted from page one. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-36035-3

Page Count: 249

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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AFTER HAMELIN

An expansion of the classic story of the pied piper, this tells of young Penelope, left behind when the piper returns for the children of Hamelin after saving the town from rats. On her 11th birthday, she must enter the world of dreams, accompanied by an eclectic assortment of companions—a talking cat, a jump-roping dragon, a blind harpist—and eventually face the piper himself in a battle of power, greed, and music. Narrated by a 101-year-old Penelope, the story bounces between recollections of the adventure, ruminations on her life, and meeting another Penelope, who is approaching her 11th birthday. By trying to incorporate too many subplots, Richardson fails to explain some of the more central points of the main story. He also introduces and dismisses concepts and props with no consistency. Penelope brings a jump rope with her, but it is rarely mentioned until she has use for it. The only way for Penelope to resist the piper’s enchanted music is to not hear it; she suddenly becomes deaf on her 11th birthday, an occurrence left unexplained. Nor does the reader ever find out why she conveniently regains her hearing upon entering the dreamland. Contrived and disjointed, this is an original interpretation that lacks development. Likely to attract lovers of fairy-tales, but it will disappoint. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-55037-629-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Firefly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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IF THAT BREATHES FIRE, WE'RE TOAST!

Tucson gives a young San Diegan a warm welcome in more ways than one in this relaxed, readable debut. Rick Morales isn’t all that happy to be moving with his mother, Sylvia, to another state, but meeting Natalie, a friendly girl, and Madam [sic] Yang, a collie-sized, 500-year-old dragon, soon puts him into better spirits. Madam Yang does not grant wishes (“Do I look like a genie? You’ve been mythinformed”), but does breathe fire, and volunteers to transport Rick, Natalie, and her little brother, Ben, into magical adventures. Weaving in a budding romance between Sylvia and a local veterinarian, Stewart decorates the plot with comic set pieces, such as an ugly pet contest and a nearly disastrous encounter between Madam Yang and Nat’s deliciously princess-like cousin Olivia. Although everyone tends to take Madam Yang so much in stride that she seems more an exotic pet than an Event, the likable cast and tongue-in-cheek humor will keep readers turning the pages. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-8234-1430-2

Page Count: 117

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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