THE BOOTLACE MAGICIAN

Micah Tuttle begins to discover the depths of his own magic in this sequel to Circus Mirandus (2015).

Micah, just passing his 11th birthday, becomes more at home in Circus Mirandus and spends time perfecting his charmed knot tying (and untying), using threads, shoelaces, and string as the mediums for his magic. He hopes to capture feelings and memories in the knots and to understand the mechanism by which a knot might remain connected to one in a thread far away. He is given the responsibility of caring for the baby unicorn in the Circus Mirandus menagerie. Micah’s kindness and his affection for the lighthearted creature, Terpsichore, lead him to wonder whether the foal wasn’t really abandoned by the other unicorns but rather deliberately left with the circus to protect its life. The wicked grandmother whose reputation haunts Micah emerges as a powerful threat to both the circus and the world at large. Micah presents as white; several other primary characters are described as having dark skin or non-European origins; and Micah’s friend from outside the circus is Latinx-implied Jenny Mendoza. Beasley’s taut third-person narrative, wholly focused on Micah, is refreshingly free of unnecessary fantasy flourishes. Complex yet efficient, her storytelling is warmly comfortable and sure-handed. Each member of the circus’ varied magical community has a gift and an important role to play, and all the magic feels genuine and believable.

Marvelously entertaining. (Fantasy. 9-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55263-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when...

ASHES TO ASHEVILLE

Two sisters make an unauthorized expedition to their former hometown and in the process bring together the two parts of their divided family.

Dooley packs plenty of emotion into this eventful road trip, which takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. Twelve-year-old Ophelia, nicknamed Fella, and her 16-year-old sister, Zoey Grace, aka Zany, are the daughters of a lesbian couple, Shannon and Lacy, who could not legally marry. The two white girls squabble and share memories as they travel from West Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, where Zany is determined to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in accordance with her wishes. The year is 2004, before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and the girls have been separated by hostile, antediluvian custodial laws. Fella’s present-tense narration paints pictures not just of the difficulties they face on the trip (a snowstorm, car trouble, and an unlikely thief among them), but also of their lives before Mama Lacy’s illness and of the ways that things have changed since then. Breathless and engaging, Fella’s distinctive voice is convincingly childlike. The conversations she has with her sister, as well as her insights about their relationship, likewise ring true. While the girls face serious issues, amusing details and the caring adults in their lives keep the tone relatively light.

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when Fella’s family figures out how to come together in a new way . (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16504-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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