Satisfying action and adventure.

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Arboregal, the Lorn Tree

Four young Americans attempt to uncover a prophecy as they search for a way home after being transported to a fantastic world similar to our own.

Twelve-year-old Michelle spends the summer with her grandparents in Transylvania, where a gypsy makes a frightening prophecy about her life and death. Michelle doesn’t understand it at the time, but when she returns to California she and her sister, Melissa, are propelled into an unforeseen adventure with their neighbors, brothers Perry and Nathan. In one of the adventure’s many moments of great magical tension, the brothers find a spell book, but their attempt to use it only teleports and strands the four in a foreign desert. The children make their way toward an enormous tree—the Lorn Tree—so large that houses are built on its branches. To their amazement, and in an impressively imaginative setup, the children discover that this is where the desert people live; one of the resident families adopts the children and teaches them about their new surroundings. The kids are eager to learn and to impart their Earth wisdom on their new Lorn friends, and though some chapters lengthily recap Lorn’s history, the characters’ energy makes it easy to root for them. At a festival one night, a fortune-teller recognizes that Michelle is the “Girl with the Golden Hair” who is prophesied to battle to the death with Hellferata, an evil spirit descended from the Greek witch Medusa. Unfortunately, Hellferata also realizes Michelle is a danger, so she sends her son, Dracu Mort, to kill Michelle and vanquish the prophecy. However, since this novel turns out to be continued in another volume, the two large questions (Will they make it home to California? Will they defeat Hellferata?) remain unanswered. In the meantime, though, there are plenty of monster attacks and that offset the many chapters of raw dialogue at the start of the story.

Satisfying action and adventure.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0983669500

Page Count: 470

Publisher: Chivileri Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2012

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ZATHURA

A trite, knock-off sequel to Jumanji (1981). The “Jumanji” box distracts Walter Budwing away from beating up on his little brother Danny, but it’s Danny who discovers the Zathura board inside—and in no time, Earth is far behind, a meteor has smashed through the roof, and a reptilian Zyborg pirate is crawling through the hole. Each throw of the dice brings an ominous new development, portrayed in grainy, penciled freeze frames featuring sculptured-looking figures in constricted, almost claustrophobic settings. The angles of view are, as always, wonderfully dramatic, but not only is much of the finer detail that contributed to Jumanji’s astonishing realism missing, the spectacular damage being done to the Budwings’ house as the game progresses is, by and large, only glimpsed around the picture edges. Naturally, having had his bacon repeatedly saved by his younger sibling’s quick thinking, once Walter falls through a black hole to a time preceding the game’s start, his attitude toward Danny undergoes a sudden, radical transformation. Van Allsburg’s imagination usually soars right along with his accomplished art—but here, both are just running in place. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-25396-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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