THE BOOK OF FATAL ERRORS

From the Feylawn Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A delightful read for anyone who loves magic.

When 12-year-old Rufus Takada Collins finds an old train, it puts him in the midst of a magical, life-or-death scavenger hunt.

After a school year characterized by what he thinks of as a series of Fatal Errors, Rufus is looking forward to spending the summer with Grandpa Jack at Feylawn, the family property that encompasses forest, meadow, creek, and orchard. At Feylawn, Rufus finds an old-fashioned locomotive. Unfortunately, Grandpa Jack is hurt falling through rotting floorboards before he can learn about the train, and Rufus’ father bans Rufus from Feylawn. Rufus sneaks back and finds he can now see fairylike creatures called feylings. He discovers the train is the feylings’ only way home, and it’s been missing for years. With the help of his pretentious cousin, Rufus must decipher old clues to find the missing train parts. But this journey leads him to possibly the ultimate Fatal Error. With mischievous feylings, goblins, and magic, this is an exciting, fast-paced middle-grade fantasy. The characters’ experiences are also grounded in the real world: parental unemployment, divorce, friendship, familial bonds, growing up, family secrets, grief, and loss. Big lessons for readers and Rufus both are the importance of looking at the bigger picture and understanding how choices affect more than just ourselves. Both cousins are biracial; Rufus’ mother is of Japanese heritage, and his father is white, and Abigail’s father is Mexican, and her mother is white.

A delightful read for anyone who loves magic. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-30119-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

WRECKING BALL

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

THE WILD ROBOT PROTECTS

From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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