Blisteringly paced, thought-provoking adventure.


From the Dactyl Hill Squad series , Vol. 2

Magdalys and company return in this sequel to Dactyl Hill Squad (2018).

On their way with their pteranodon to New Orleans to rescue Magdalys’ injured Union soldier brother, the squad falls in with the all-black Louisiana Native Guard (that they’re not Native American is commented on), led by Gen. Sheridan. Secrets soon start to spill: The sole adult in their crew, thespian Cymbeline, is actually a Union spy, and when Sheridan discovers Magdalys is a dino-wrangler, he tries to inveigle her into Union service. Magdalys feels betrayed by Cymbeline, wants to prioritize her brother, and understandably doesn’t trust Sheridan—but that doesn’t save the squad from getting pulled into battle. The rapid pace is akin to the first installment’s but smoother, and as the squad navigates peril after peril, the supporting characters come into their own. As Afro-Cuban Magdalys recognizes how putting her power in Union hands could help enslaved black people, she vacillates. Showing great respect for his readers, Older doesn’t pull any punches. Amaya, who is Apache, points out the irony of fighting for people who stole Native land. Later, Magdalys grapples with the unpleasant truth that (most?) Northerners would happily keep black people enslaved in exchange for an end to the war—even Gen. Grant himself. Readers will be relieved that in a cruelly unjust world she gets a happy ending, though it’s clear her story is far from over.

Blisteringly paced, thought-provoking adventure. (Historical fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26884-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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.


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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A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes.


From the Trials of Apollo series , Vol. 5

In this tumultuous series closer, Apollo, transformed into a mortal teenager, takes on both a deified emperor in a luxurious Manhattan high-rise and an older adversary.

Lester/Apollo’s coast-to-coast quest reaches its climactic stage as, with help from both eager squads of fledgling demigods from Camp Half-Blood and reluctant allies from realms deep below New York, he invades the palatial lair of Emperor Nero—followed by a solo bout with another foe from a past struggle. Riordan lays on the transformation of the heedless, arrogant sun god to a repentant lover of his long-neglected semidivine offspring and of humanity in general, which has served as the series’ binding theme, thickly enough to have his humbled narrator even apologizing (twice!) to his underwear for having to change it periodically. Still, the author delivers a fast, action-driven plot with high stakes, lots of fighting, and occasional splashes of gore brightened by banter and silly bits, so readers aren’t likely to mind all the hand-wringing. He also leaves any real-life parallels to the slick, megalomaniacal, emotionally abusive Nero entirely up to readers to discern and dishes out just deserts all round, neatly tying up loose ends in a set of closing vignettes. The supporting cast is predominantly White, with passing mention of diverse representation.

A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes. (glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4645-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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