Lacks the wonder expected from magical teens and fairy tales made real.

LILLY NOBLE & ACTUAL MAGIC

By-the-numbers YA in which an amnesiac teen girl enrolls in a school of magic and battles her evil stepmother’s secret plans.

Lilly Noble’s life is in a state of severe upheaval. After a violent car crash kills her mother and costs Lilly her memory, her strict new stepmother, Morgann, and now largely absentee father send her away to a boarding school on a seemingly dreary island off the coast of Maine. Yet the school, Bonaventure’s Academy, is no ordinary institution, cultivating the abilities of extraordinary children—in Lilly’s case, to literally sniff out lies that reveal themselves with the odor of stinky feet—and teaching them to perform actual magic. Though struggling with her own identity, Lilly is soon surrounded by peers as remarkable as she, from her fashion-obsessed roommate, Shellaire, to her intensely protective best friend, Zymura, driven to help her unlock her lost memories. There’s also the charming, often annoying “bad boy” of the school, Murosky Skaggs, who is smitten with Lilly but hides from her a terrible secret. McTiernan’s debut comes to an exciting climax as the haze of Lilly’s amnesia lifts, pushing the girl into a battle with the evil witch and the giant squid living in the bay by the school. The high-tension battle is a drastic but welcome departure from the novel’s otherwise slow, repetitive pacing. Part fairy tale, part Harry Potter, the book lacks the spectacle of either, never developing into the world of marvels that a magic school surrounded by mythological creatures should be. Despite this, a satisfying dynamic develops among the students, who are humorous but have a tendency to be careless and even cruel to each other, which rings true for awkward, fearful teens. Similarly, while recasting the old trope of the battle with a wicked stepmother, the simple message—that friendship and self-esteem can help overcome hardship—might appeal to YA readers.

Lacks the wonder expected from magical teens and fairy tales made real.

Pub Date: April 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-0989180702

Page Count: 318

Publisher: Actual Magic Enterprises, LLC

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A DOG NAMED SAM

A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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