A tale about a perilous rescue operation that delivers a sweet, all-ages romp, leaving room for further escapades.

Bennett Prince of Ziemia

In this debut middle-grade fantasy, a teen prince and his beautiful young companion sneak off on an adventure to save a nearby village.

Thirteen-year-old Bennett is the son of Matthew Kladivo II, king of peaceful Ziemia. Bennett grows up safe and wealthy, but he longs for exploits like those enjoyed by the knights who visit the castle. One day, the knights mention that the people of the Southern Mountains struggle against invaders from the neighboring kingdom of Lomar. The largest village under siege, Cortus, owns an enchanted cylinder of stone called the Zoldox. The Zoldox possesses the power to keep away a savage troglodyte race called the Edu. When Bennett travels with his uncle and Ziemia’s soldiers to Cortus, they learn that the Zoldox has been stolen. Bennett also spies a lovely girl his age named Melissa, whose family has requested protection from the army. Eventually, Bennett gets to know Melissa, who reveals that her two younger cousins have vanished. The prince tells her: “If the Edu captured your cousins, they are probably already dead and eaten, but there is also a good chance that bandits captured [them].” As Melissa vows to take action, Bennett summons the courage to accompany her wherever the mission leads. Kucera builds a charming tale that should entice middle-grade and classical fantasy readers alike. He offers colorful descriptions (the Edu have “thick, tough, gray, almost bluish skin, which was sparsely covered with thick, dark gray bristles”) accompanied by spot-on illustrations by Cerv. In entertaining passages, the author creates fantasy situations that utilize genuine biology. When the kids sneak into the Edu caverns, they crush ladybugs on their bodies because “they would hide the scent of Bennett and Melissa and, at the same time, give off a natural smell the Edu would be familiar with.” Though the narrative is short, it includes the excellent lesson that “a clever mind can defeat more enemies than a sharp sword.” Kucera’s ending places his characters in an intriguing quandary.

A tale about a perilous rescue operation that delivers a sweet, all-ages romp, leaving room for further escapades.

Pub Date: July 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5246-1835-3

Page Count: 146

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: yesterday

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How To Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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