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

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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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Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger.

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE SKELETON ROAD

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 6

The monster-fighting gang from Wakefield departs on a post-apocalyptic road trip.

In this sixth installment of the heavily illustrated, Netflix-adapted series, quirky Jack Sullivan and his friends June, Quint, and Dirk finally leave their creature-ridden town in search of the ultimate baddie, Thrull, who previously deceived them. The quartet takes their tricked-out ride (an armored RV named Bad Mama) onto the open road (with Jack’s Zombie Squad in tow) to find the Outpost, where they believe a certain monster will be able to give them the location of the evil Tower where they believe Thrull now resides. Of course, the journey is littered with all kinds of nightmarish beasts and pitfalls (including an epic water park battle and slime-dripping baby monster), but the kids persist, armed with their endless gadgets and quick thinking. As the group races toward Thrull, the action culminates with an achingly tantalizing cliffhanger; expect audible groans and vociferous demands for the next installment. Fans of this series will revel in this fast-paced escapade with its recognizable black-and-white illustrations and trademark humor. Readers new to the series or those who are only familiar with the animated show may be a bit put off by this later volume that relies heavily on its own language of monsters and weapons. Jack, June, and Dirk are light-skinned; Quint is dark-skinned.

Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger. (Graphic fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984835-34-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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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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