INKHEART

It is hard to avoid preciosity in books about books, but here Funke pulls off the feat with vigor. Meggie, an avid reader, lives alone with her father, a bookbinder; her mother disappeared years before. When a disturbing stranger named Dustfingers intrudes on their peace, she gradually discovers that the barrier between books and the real world is permeable and that an ill-fated read-aloud years ago unleashed Capricorn, who “would feed [a] bird to [a] cat on purpose . . . and the little creature’s screeching and struggling would be as sweet as honey to him.” Funke takes her time with her tale, investing her situations with palpable menace and limning her characters with acute sensitivity; she creates in Meggie a stalwart heroine who never loses her childish nature even as she works to contain the monster and bring her mother back. Master translator Bell takes the German text and spins out of it vivid images and heart-stopping language that impel the reader through this adventure about narratives—a true feast for anyone who has ever been lost in a book. (Fiction. 10+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-439-53164-0

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY

Gratuity Tucci (“Tip” for short) has a problem. Aliens have invaded Earth, stolen her mother, and now she and the rest of humanity are being shunted onto small reservations while the invaders (the Boov) take over the rest of the planet. In avoiding this plan, via her family car, Tip runs across J.Lo, a renegade Boov with problems of his own. Together, girl and alien attempt to locate Tip’s mother only to discover that an even greater alien threat is imminent. It’s up to the two heroes to defeat the invaders, Boov and otherwise, and save the day. The humor in this story is undeniably unique, containing a skewed worldview that children will certainly enjoy. Yet while the first half of the book is an entirely funny road trip of the Kerouac-meets-E.T. variety, the second half slows down considerably. Rex has such a nice grasp of small tender moments amidst a world gone haywire, it’s a pity the book wasn’t pared down significantly. Inspired but problematic. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7868-4900-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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