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Inventive, fast-paced fantasy with imaginative settings and engaging characters.

In Ledbetter’s debut YA novel, a talented artist discovers that his new sketchbook harbors a dangerous secret.

Cameron Shade is a typical high school student in Wilmington, North Carolina. When he’s not studying art and journalism, he’s either playing online video games with his best friend, Jameson Scott, or visiting the art supply store owned by his mentor, Marco Cassisi. Cameron also has a crush on Farrah Spangled, his journalism classmate and editor of the school newspaper, but she has a boyfriend. Cameron faces a tragic loss when Cassisi dies suddenly. After his estate is settled, Cameron receives an unusual bequest, a seemingly ordinary sketchbook. Inside the sketchbook, Cameron discovers a note warning him to “draw things, not people.” One night, Cameron sketches Farrah in the book, and the drawing seems to speak to him. When the drawing asks Cameron about her name, he decides to call her Echo. The next day, Echo is joined by another drawing named Vittoria. Farrah’s health soon declines and Cameron learns that her soul is being absorbed into the book. What started as an idle sketch soon turns into a race against time as Cameron journeys into the sketchbook to save Farrah. Ledbetter successfully makes his fantastic premise very believable, thanks to well-developed lead characters and settings. He has a solid protagonist in Cameron, an earnest young man trying to find his identity as an artist, and he surrounds Cameron with a supportive father and group of friends. Farrah is a good foil for Cameron, and Ledbetter does a fine job developing their friendship and romantic connection. The action plays out in the real world of Wilmington and the world Cameron discovers inside the sketchbook, with Ledbetter rendering both in bold and intricate detail. Scenes in which Echo and Vittoria come to life on the page and begin communicating with Cameron are particularly impressive. Because this is not a graphic novel, descriptions are important, and Ledbetter’s finely detailed descriptions serve as effective illustrations for Cameron’s journey.

Inventive, fast-paced fantasy with imaginative settings and engaging characters.

Pub Date: June 5, 2015


Page Count: 232

Publisher: Evernight Teen

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2015

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

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

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. 18, 2019

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Little Blue’s fans will enjoy the animal sounds and counting opportunities, but it’s the sparkling lights on the truck’s own...

The sturdy Little Blue Truck is back for his third adventure, this time delivering Christmas trees to his band of animal pals.

The truck is decked out for the season with a Christmas wreath that suggests a nose between headlights acting as eyeballs. Little Blue loads up with trees at Toad’s Trees, where five trees are marked with numbered tags. These five trees are counted and arithmetically manipulated in various ways throughout the rhyming story as they are dropped off one by one to Little Blue’s friends. The final tree is reserved for the truck’s own use at his garage home, where he is welcomed back by the tree salestoad in a neatly circular fashion. The last tree is already decorated, and Little Blue gets a surprise along with readers, as tiny lights embedded in the illustrations sparkle for a few seconds when the last page is turned. Though it’s a gimmick, it’s a pleasant surprise, and it fits with the retro atmosphere of the snowy country scenes. The short, rhyming text is accented with colored highlights, red for the animal sounds and bright green for the numerical words in the Christmas-tree countdown.

Little Blue’s fans will enjoy the animal sounds and counting opportunities, but it’s the sparkling lights on the truck’s own tree that will put a twinkle in a toddler’s eyes. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-32041-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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