Parochial, but undeniably illuminating.

MAGICAL CREATURES AND MYTHICAL BEASTS

From the See the Supernatural series

With the aid of a special flashlight, an Oxford don’s daughter spots dozens of creatures of legend and folklore on a world tour.

Happily, readers can do the same with the removable thumb light encased in the cover. Millie’s ever oblivious dad delivers quick lectures on the facts behind the Loch Ness Monster, Pegasus, Japanese yokai, “sewer gators” in New York City, Uzbekistani griffins, and more. Meanwhile, young Millie tags along, offering less skeptical observations while revealing with her magic light a world teeming with diaphanous wonders. The gimmick works unusually well; even under close examination the various creatures hidden in Ngai’s expansive landscapes and bustling urban scenes are invisible until the ambient lighting is dimmed and the blue minilight switched on. Better yet, even after the tour ends amid Oxford’s book- (and goblin-) laden shelves, a page turn reveals 18 more sprites and wights to find in a second go-round. The Eurocentric itinerary loops quickly through Asia, Oceania, and the Americas while leaving India and Africa out entirely. Religions both ancient and current are treated as myth—the Rainbow Serpent of Aborigine tradition is dismissed as a legend, for instance. Aside from one brown-skinned librarian, every human in sight is either White, concealed beneath umbrellas or big sunglasses, or turned away. Still, the size and diverse character of the supernatural cast give this a leg (claw, tentacle) up on most monster-hunting guides. The light’s button battery is replaceable.

Parochial, but undeniably illuminating. (Informational novelty. 7-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4839-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Magic Cat

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after.

RISE OF THE EARTH DRAGON

From the Dragon Masters series , Vol. 1

Drake has been selected by the king to serve as a Dragon Master, quite a change for an 8-year-old farmer boy.

The dragons are a secret, and the reason King Roland has them is a mystery, but what is clear is that the Dragon Stone has identified Drake as one of the rare few children who have a special connection with dragons and the ability to serve as a trainer. Drake’s dragon is a long brown creature with, at first, no particular talents that Drake can identify. He calls the dragon Worm. It isn’t long before Drake begins to realize he has a very strong connection with Worm and can share what seem to be his dragon’s thoughts. After one of the other Dragon Masters decides to illicitly take the dragons outside, disaster strikes. The cave they are passing through collapses, blocking the passageway, and then Worm’s special talent becomes evident. The first of a new series of early chapter books, this entry is sure to attract fans. Brief chapters, large print, lots of action, attractive illustrations in every spread, including a maplike panorama, an enviable protagonist—who wouldn’t want to be a Dragon Master?—all combine to make an entertaining read.

With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-64624-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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Despite missteps, this satisfying follow-up will leave readers hoping for more magical adventures with lovable Jax and...

THE DRAGON THIEF

From the Dragons in a Bag series , Vol. 2

Jaxon and his friends deal with the fallout from the theft of one of the baby dragons in his charge.

As this sequel to Dragons in a Bag (2018) opens, Kavita, the titular dragon thief, introduces elderly Aunty to stolen baby dragon Mo. Thankfully, Aunty knows someone in Queens who can help return Mo to the realm of magic. Meanwhile, and in alternating first-person chapters, Jax is trying to find Kavi and Mo, as Mo’s siblings have grown ill as a result of the separation, as has Ma, Jax’s magical mentor and grandmother figure. Jax again teams up with his best friend and Kavi’s older brother, Vik. A third is added to their crew with “huge” Kenny, “the biggest kid in [their] class.” (Unfortunately, much is made of Kenny’s size, which feels gratuitous and unkind.) Eventually the trio finds Kavi, Aunty, and Mo, who’ve been abducted by a magical con artist. All’s well that ends well when Sis, the powerful guardian of the magic realm, shows up, but readers may wonder why the narrative decides to grapple with her choice not to intervene in injustice in our world. Her argument that human-caused problems are for humans to solve feels undeveloped, especially in the face of a massive injustice like the trans-Atlantic slave trade (mentioned during the climax and at no other point). Jax is black; Vik, Kavi, and Aunty are Indian American (though Aunty has African ancestry as well); and Kenny is white. The rest of the cast is diverse as well.

Despite missteps, this satisfying follow-up will leave readers hoping for more magical adventures with lovable Jax and company. (Urban fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7049-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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