Uneven pacing and clunky writing undermine this examination of trauma and PTSD.

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IF WE WERE GIANTS

Matthews, of the Dave Matthews Band, and co-author Smith offer a fantasy that explores the damage done by violence inflicted by one people against another.

Ten-year-old Kirra lives in an idyllic community hidden for generations inside a dormant volcano. When she and her little brother make unwise choices that help bring the violent, spindly, gray-skinned Takers to her community—with devastating results—Kirra feels responsible and leaves the volcano. Four years later, Kirra’s been adopted into a family of Tree Folk that live in the forest canopy. Though there are many Tree Folk, individual families care for their own and are politely distant from others. Kirra, suffering from (unnamed) PTSD, evades her traumatic memories by avoiding what she calls “Memory Traps,” but when the Takers arrive in the forest, she must face her trauma and attempt to make a community of the Tree Folk if they’re to survive. Although Kirra’s struggles through trauma are presented with sympathy and realistically rendered, some characters’ choices are so patently foolish they baldly read like the plot devices they are. Additionally, much preparation goes into one line of defense while other obvious factors are completely ignored, further pushing the story’s credibility. Kirra is brown skinned, as is her first family; Tree Folk appear not to be racially homogenous; and the Takers are all gray skinned.

Uneven pacing and clunky writing undermine this examination of trauma and PTSD. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-7871-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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.

THE ICKABOG

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.

THE TOWER OF NERO

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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