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A lively piece of escapism featuring peril, adventure, and a dash of consequence.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

A modern American boy is spirited away to a medieval kingdom and must defend the realm in Canfield’s middle-grade fantasy.

Ethan is an unremarkable seventh grader who plays baseball, studies, and hangs out with his friends. However, his life is about to change drastically. One day at home, he finds a strange puddle of green light. When he touches it, he’s transported to another world—a land without digital technology but with a bona fide castle. As disorienting as this is, what confuses Ethan most is that his arrival is expected and that Edward, king of Abentur, knows who he is. He informs the boy about some of the kingdom’s history and then sends him home using the Gateway, a magical stone that the king keeps around his neck. Ethan goes back to his everyday life, but the thought of Abentur gnaws at him. When the green light reappears, he takes the opportunity to return to the castle, where he meets the king’s children; later, he helps to save them from kidnappers. Abentur, as it happens, is under threat from invaders riding winged horses, and its only protection is a dragon, which the attackers plan to kill. Can Ethan protect the kingdom and survive long enough to learn his true purpose? Canfield, the author of Back to Christmas (2013), writes in a simple, engaging prose style. The characters largely conform to familiar genre types, but Ethan is a likable protagonist who’s affable, brave, and curious. Some of the minor players, such as Godfrey, who commands the king’s army, are memorable, as well. The kingdom itself is only lightly sketched to provide a backdrop for the action; it seems very small at times, as the story mostly ignores the inhabitants who aren’t central to the narrative. The dialogue isn’t especially medieval, but this is an understandable choice. The quick-paced story will suit a middle-grade audience; like the first Harry Potter book, it hints at greater nuance and sets the scene for more complex sequels. Young fantasy fans should find themselves transported.

A lively piece of escapism featuring peril, adventure, and a dash of consequence.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 244

Publisher: Well Spoken Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2020

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From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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