A mixed bag: Fights and reveals are lackluster, but the stars and steampunk glow.

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THE STAR SHEPHERD

Stars are falling, and the people who usually send them back up aren’t able.

Kyro’s father, Tirin, works as a Star Shepherd. He watches the skies all night. When a star falls to Earth nearby, Kyro and Tirin run outdoors, scoop it up, and catapult it back to the sky before dawn. Each star is different: One’s a “strange, molten thing, with light leaking out over its curves”; another “shimmer[s] like liquid silver but [i]s as light as a handful of feathers.” But something’s wrong: Stars are falling in daylight and in clusters, the gaps they leave in the dark sky allowing ancient, evil creatures into the world. When Tirin disappears, Kyro, with pal Andra (a girl who’s more supportiveness trope than person), embarks on a desperate journey to find his father. The plot begins as a wondrous celestial fable with some steampunk elements—cogs and gears; clockwork; star cases of “glass and metal with hooks built into the design and angled just right to catch on the edges of the sky.” But it morphs surprisingly and disappointingly into a story of combat featuring sentient, mechanical giants and fire-breathing spiders with slimy black webbing. The final battle slogs, and the plot’s reveals are reported listlessly. However, the star premise shines throughout. Kyro, Tirin, and Andra seem white or light-skinned.

A mixed bag: Fights and reveals are lackluster, but the stars and steampunk glow. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5820-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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