Despite the comical cartoon illustrations on every page, this setup volume is just possibly too clever to give its target...

STRANGER THINGS

From the Looniverse series , Vol. 1

Logic takes a little too much of a flyer for this series opener to hold together.

Considering that Ed has three identical friends named Quentin and a little brother, Derwin, who attends the Albert Camus Primary School, readers might be forgiven for thinking that his life seems strange enough. After finding a coin in the grass labeled “STRANGE, STRANGER” on both sides, though, suddenly Ed’s plagued by peculiarities. One sister concocts a real locomotive at dinnertime from turkey and “wheels” of cranberry sauce, another leads a swarm of mice around the living room after listening to the “Pied Piper” story, and Derwin exchanges a list of a thousand words for a tall, thin neighbor’s picture (get it?), among other mystifying events. Ed learns from the proprietor of the New Curiosity Shop that unless he can pass the rapidly eroding coin off to a “Stranger,” the world will fall into mediocrity. In an ending that may be appropriately absurd but will leave readers feeling betwixt and between, Ed realizes that he has to bestow the coin on…himself. Part of the publisher's new Branches line of chapter books, this title is ostensibly aimed at 5- to 7-year-olds, but the obscure (to the age group) literary references and general tone skew it to well-read older elementary students.

Despite the comical cartoon illustrations on every page, this setup volume is just possibly too clever to give its target audience any reason to read on. Now there’s an existential dilemma. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-49602-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

THE MYSTERIOUS MESSENGER

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Good-hearted fun—great for fans of Kit Feeny and Babymouse.

MEET THE BIGFEET

From the Yeti Files series , Vol. 1

It’s a Bigfeet family reunion!

Everyone’s favorite frosty, furry cryptid, the yeti, actually has a name: Blizz Richards. From his supersecret HQ in Nepal he keeps in touch with his fellow cryptids, all of whom have sworn an oath to keep themselves hidden. That’s not always easy, especially when there are cryptozoologists, like the nasty (but bumbling) George Vanquist, who are always trying to expose the secretive creatures. Vanquist got a picture of Blizz’s cousin Brian near his home in British Columbia, causing the mortified Brian to disappear entirely. When Blizz receives an invitation to a Bigfeet family reunion in Canada, he calls his buddies Alexander (one of Santa’s elves), Gunthar (a goblin) and Frank the Arctic fox to help him get ready. When they arrive in Canada, Brian is still nowhere to be seen. Can Blizz and his skunk ape and other sasquatch cousins find Brian, have the reunion and evade Vanquist? If anyone can, the Bigfeet clan can. Illustrator Sherry’s first volume in the Yeti Files is a fast and funny graphic-prose tale full of labeled pictures and comic-style panels. Those just starting chapter books may have some trouble with a few big words, but they’ll enjoy the big friendly monsters and immediately ask for the next tale—which looks to be about the Loch Ness monster.

Good-hearted fun—great for fans of Kit Feeny and Babymouse. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-55617-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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