A witty, well-conceived, entertaining fantasy featuring a memorable young heroine and genuine chills.

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MAGNOLIA IN ILIUM

From the Magnolia series , Vol. 1

A girl and her friends band together to save their magical world from destruction in this fantasy for middle schoolers.

In the realm of Faraway, Magnolia is a 12-year-old girl with a prodigious gift for magic and a penchant for hoop skirts and crinolines. She is dismayed when her magician parents decide to send her to Gryndells, a boarding school in the great city of Ilium, to hone her powers. She hates leaving her parents’ steam-powered showboat, which transports magicians up and down the Mississippi, and her social circle of sprites, centaurs, talking trees, and catfish the size of city buses. After her arrival at Gryndells, five students disappear, and Magnolia discovers—with the help of one of the school’s ghosts—that something is very wrong in Faraway. Joined by three fellow students and Joe, her anxious parrot familiar, the determined Magnolia sets out to find the missing kids. Plotted with unforced humor and a dash of horror, Jenkinson’s richly textured fantasy involves astral projection, transport portals, evil Imps, giant ogres, a mystical forest with a mind of its own, and stolen dragon teeth with the potential to destroy the entire world of Faraway. There are a few misused words, such as “simpered” for whimpered and “shuttered” for shuddered, but the book’s pleasures, in addition to the well-realized characters, are many. They include references to fairy tales and fantasy literature woven throughout the narrative. In addition to Harry Potter tributes (confusing staircases, sentient books, eccentric professors) there are a mini–Mad Hatter, size-altering potions, quarreling twins (faces on a spinning coin), mentions of hobbits, a powerful magic ring, ceramic Oz figurines, guards in emerald green uniforms, and a witch’s feline familiar named Paiwacket, inspired by Pyewacket in the play/film Bell, Book and Candle. But at its heart, this first installment of a series is a buddy story (and the pals include Joe and Paiwacket), as Magnolia and her companions bond, working together to try to prevent the Imps’ horrific plans for Faraway.

A witty, well-conceived, entertaining fantasy featuring a memorable young heroine and genuine chills. (brief bio)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-980621-17-1

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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A busy if ultimately tidy wrap-up for fans.

WORLDS COLLIDE

From the Land of Stories series , Vol. 6

Witches and other fictional baddies move to conquer this world when a portal opens between the Land of Stories and a branch of the New York Public Library.

For the finale to his popular series, Colfer recaps the first five episodes, then brings together most of the teeming cast to wage, as the narrator admits, “an overdue battle of good versus evil.” Flanked by a wish-fulfilling frame story in which Conner, one of the white twin protagonists, has grown up to become a revered writer of middle-grade fantasies, the climactic struggle begins with the portal’s opening in the sumptuous Rose Reading Room. It spreads to Central Park and other locales as the then-teenager and allies fictional or otherwise (including a lot of ineffectual Marines) square off against his powerfully gifted sister, Alex, the dastardly witches who have ensorcelled her, and a Literary Army led by (among others) the head-chopping Queen of Hearts. Many set pieces ensue, from a pitched battle with gingerbread soldiers to no fewer than six individual witch-fairy duels in a row—not to mention gags and one-liners aplenty, topical references, and adolescent posturing (“Knock it off, boys,” Merlin snaps at one point, “there are much bigger issues in this story”). With one exception, characters who die bleed words instead of blood, and all of the destruction in both worlds is neatly fixed at the end by an albino dragon ( see Book 3: A Grimm Warning). Dorman’s vignettes at the chapter heads offer glimpses of settings and characters.

A busy if ultimately tidy wrap-up for fans. (foldout map of lower Manhattan) (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-35589-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2017

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