A dark take on the hero’s journey with a reminder for children to appreciate the advice of their elders.

The Life of Reginald James

In this adventure story for young readers, the titular hero leaves his childhood home to make his own way through life on a journey to the beautiful Blue Castle, along the way encountering obstacles that include hungry beasts, violent storms and dangerous fires.

Reginald James lives an idyllic life in the forest with his family until the day comes when his mother tells him that it is time he set off on his own. She then sends him out into the world with the knowledge that he will likely never see her again. Reggie decides to embark on a quest to the Blue Castle, which he spies in the distance, and to make a new home there. First, however, he must use his wits to find food in the forest, cross rivers though he can’t swim, and avoid the creatures in the woods that want to kill and eat him. At first, Reggie relies on the various valuable lessons his mother taught him, but his ego grows alongside his successes, and he pushes her advice aside, deriding it as too old-fashioned to apply to his modern world. Will this overconfidence backfire before he reaches his journey’s end? Debut author Lethert packs his story with a variety of tension-filled moments, but his writing, which occasionally changes from past to present tense and back again, can sometimes be confusing. He also provides excessive, repetitive detail for every step of Reggie’s quest; a passage in which Reggie struggles to cross a stream extends over seven pages that detail every foothold and every slip, to the point of being exhausting rather than exciting. The stark, startlingly depressing conclusion provides a fitting moral to the story, but it may also be too upsetting for some young readers. Nevertheless, if they are able to understand and move past the more traumatic moments in the tale, they will learn valuable lessons about the importance of maintaining a humble, grateful attitude.

A dark take on the hero’s journey with a reminder for children to appreciate the advice of their elders.

Pub Date: March 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-1496114860

Page Count: 126

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2014

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

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. 19, 2019

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A witty addition to the long-running series.

THE DEEP END

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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