THE SHADOW IN THE GARDEN

THE SPIRITHAVEN ADVENTURES

McElroy’s debut follows a young girl named Luna, her stuffed puppy Tiffy and her grandfather as they venture into a mysterious, fantastical space.

The story begins when a profoundly unhappy Luna discovers a winking gnome and a gate in the hedgerow that wasn’t there before. Accompanied by her grandfather, a timid Luna sets off on a whimsical journey through the gate. On the other side is a place called Spirithaven, home to a host of helpful and not so helpful fantasy characters. There, Luna is surprised to find that her stuffed pup Tiffy has become a real dog. She valiantly faces challenges in Spirithaven, both with and without her grandfather. The story is littered with allegorical characters and places like Sanctuary Park, Memory Lane and the Nothing. While allegory is a tool used powerfully by McElroy, it sometimes yields unwieldy phrases like “the Emotive Arbiter.” Some readers may find the allegorical approach heavy handed and miss a more nuanced approach, but others may find it works well to help children delve into the painful subject matter of loss. Luna provides a compelling voice to childhood depression as she numbly forges on alone through The Nothing, bravely confronting each of her personified emotions at the end of the gray tunnel. Through Luna, young readers are guided through the process of dealing with their emotions after the loss of a loved one. Themes of facing fear, doubt and loneliness are apt messages for kids and well-executed within the story. The reading level, length and subject matter make this an ideal read for parents to read alongside their grieving children. A simple, yet powerful, story that will comfort children dealing with grief.

 

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2012

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A witty addition to the long-running series.

THE DEEP END

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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