A detailed, imaginative YA fantasy with humor and pathos.

Walking in Shadows


A high school student discovers his troubling magical powers in this fantasy/young-adult adventure.

Jordan McKee is trying his best to have a normal high school life. After a blinding light awakened him, he’s been experiencing the same things that got his Aunt Karen institutionalized. At first, Jordan tries to hide his new condition, but when he starts wearing sunglasses all day and avoiding invisible shrubbery on the running track, his friends, family and teachers demand to know what’s going on—if only Jordan knew. Walking in the woods, Jordan stumbles upon an old, smelly man peering over what looks like a complex pattern on the forest floor. This pattern turns out to be a sigil, a mode of communication with the shadow worlds that run parallel to our daily existence. Alwyn, the old man from the woods—who insists on being called “Sir” and can deliver a swift backhand if contradicted or interrupted—explains to Jordan that they are both Watchers, a secret society of seers who are sworn to protect the universe from “the one who would come after” the initial prophecy. The Watchers also claim to control the government, law enforcement and other authorities. As Jordan learns about the Watchers under Alwyn's tutelage, he becomes more alienated from his friends Billy and franki (with a lowercase “f”), as well as from his parents. But telling anyone about the Watchers comes with serious, and perhaps even fatal, consequences. Delving deeper into Watcher history, Jordan begins to understand that his position in the shadow worlds will determine the fate of humanity—and the course of his own life. Debut author Haakenson, who has imagined an entire series around the Watchers, has a keen ear for the cadences of teenagers, as well as a grasp of pacing and description that will keep the young-adult reader riveted.

A detailed, imaginative YA fantasy with humor and pathos.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-0988499805

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Remora House

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.


Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books.


Actor and author Witherspoon makes her picture-book debut.

Betty, a light-skinned, bespectacled child with blond pigtails, was born busy. Constantly in motion, Betty builds big block towers, cartwheels around the house (underfoot, of course), and plays with the family’s “fantabulous” dog, Frank, who is stinky and dirty. That leads to a big, busy, bright idea that, predictably, caroms toward calamity yet drags along enough hilarity to be entertaining. With a little help from best friend Mae (light-skinned with dark hair), the catastrophe turns into a lucrative dog-washing business. Busy Betty is once again ready to rush off to the next big thing. Yan uses vivid, pastel colors for a spread of a group of diverse kids bringing their dogs to be washed, helping out, and having fun, while the grown-ups are muted and relegated to the background. Extreme angles in several of the illustrations effectively convey a sense of perpetual motion and heighten the story’s tension, drawing readers in. An especially effective, glitter-strewn spread portrays Frank looming large and seemingly running off the page while Betty looks on, stricken at the ensuing mess. Though it’s a familiar and easily resolved story, Witherspoon’s rollicking text never holds back, replete with amusing phrases such as “sweet cinnamon biscuits,” “bouncing biscuits,” and “busted biscuits.” As Betty says, “Being busy is a great way to be.” Young readers are sure to agree. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-46588-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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