A tethered but appealing introduction to Cornish legend and Odyssean narrative.

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ALEX AND THE DRUIDS ECLIPSE

A debut fantasy displaces a boy in time and sends him on a medieval quest.

Ten-year-old Alex Pitts lives in Penmellyn, a village on the coast of Cornwall, England. While witnessing a solar eclipse with his father, Alex is thrown back across centuries to the days of King Arthur. The landscape is the same but there is little sign of civilization. At first, Alex thinks he must be dreaming. He takes shelter in a fogou (a refuge fashioned from buried stone walls) but is attacked by barbarians and saved by a wolf. Alex then meets the wizard Merlin and is sent on a quest to reclaim King Bran’s cauldron of rebirth, which has been spirited away to Ireland. On his journey, Alex encounters witches, faeries, spriggans, and giants. Back in the present day, Alex’s dad begins looking for him, vowing not to return home until his son is found. These quests play out in parallel as, relentlessly, the months pass. Griffin draws on the fairy tale tradition of “tell, not show,” and takes pains to elucidate each thought, word, and deed. Despite this, the principal characters remain undistinguished. (Merlin is kindly but generic; Alex is all but forgettable, relying constantly on others to save him.) As with “Hansel and Gretel,” though, it is the myth and magic of the land that will draw readers in: the haggish witches; the faithful wolf; the ugly giant yearning for friendship. Griffin shows a deep appreciation of place, and it is Cornwall and Cornish folklore that take center stage. The modern-day action is, conversely, a weakness. The search that Alex’s dad undertakes intrudes on the main story, and readers will likely be less forgiving of the stage dialogue that prevails throughout this thread: “No. Look, Jory. I have a really powerful torch that will illuminate the whole cliff face. Let’s walk slowly along the shingle.” Nonetheless, the story’s moral—do not judge by appearances—is strongly presented, and middle-grade readers should find enough in Alex’s adventure to tug at their imaginations.

A tethered but appealing introduction to Cornish legend and Odyssean narrative.

Pub Date: June 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4808-4704-0

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2017

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An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

BEHIND THE BLUE

A fan of magic and her reluctant companion embark on an adventure when the mysterious Blue Man charges them with a mission.

Little Katherine contemplates what exists behind the scrim of the sky, and she gets her answer after she meets a boy named Charlie, who literally runs into her upon fleeing a blue man and a talking salamander he encounters in the nearby forest. The man is non-threatening, and asks the two to help him recover some lost items, to which Katherine heartily agrees. He doesn’t provide much information, however, so once she and Charlie enter this enchanted universe, they must take it upon themselves to figure out what the Blue Man has lost and how to go about helping him find it. With the help of guides like snarky, enigmatic Gerald and good-natured Frank, the children travel through very deep puddles to different realms behind the clouds, learning about the Blue Man’s nemesis, Grey Lady, who may have snatched his magical dragon stones. Schilling’s well drawn, vibrant world elevates his story above the standard adventure quest. His lively, amusing dialogue complements a fantastical world where fish flit through the air like bees (and may accidentally transport you elsewhere), manta rays make shy cabbies, crushed flowers pop back to life and magic permeates everything. While adults will find the narrative captivating, this book is tailor-made for storytime read-alouds.

An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

Pub Date: July 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-595-36189-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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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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