BEYOND THE PORTAL

From the Unicorn Island series , Vol. 3

A nimble trot to a joyous finish.

A secret portal to the home world of the unicorns brings Sam and her long-lost mother back together in this trilogy closer.

The revelation in the previous episode that her mom, who disappeared 10 years ago, might still be alive sends Sam slipping away from her overprotective dad to open a portal on fog-shrouded Unicorn Island. She and friends Tuck (a human boy) and Barloc (a unicorn) pass through. On the other side, they find the villagers of Crag Haven packing up to flee because the unicorns, whose ground up horns counteract the poison in the local river’s water, have been hunted to extinction—by, shockingly, Sam’s own mother, Sylvie. Can Sam not only protect Barloc, but also save the villagers and, most difficult of all, persuade Sylvie to give up her new life for her former one? Galanti poses her young unicorn protector some tough challenges, all of which are successfully met (without harm done to any two- or four-legged cast members) on the way to a tearful parental reunion and, as is the author’s wont, a series of informational appendices on relevant topics from equine colic and horseback riding to the healing properties of unicorn horns in legend and the importance of pure water. Sam and the unicorns alike in Stancliffe’s neatly finished illustrations shake out lyrically flowing locks, and the luridly green river looks properly noxious.

A nimble trot to a joyous finish. (Fantasy. 7-11)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 9781524878702

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

RISE OF THE EARTH DRAGON

From the Dragon Masters series , Vol. 1

With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after.

Drake has been selected by the king to serve as a Dragon Master, quite a change for an 8-year-old farmer boy.

The dragons are a secret, and the reason King Roland has them is a mystery, but what is clear is that the Dragon Stone has identified Drake as one of the rare few children who have a special connection with dragons and the ability to serve as a trainer. Drake’s dragon is a long brown creature with, at first, no particular talents that Drake can identify. He calls the dragon Worm. It isn’t long before Drake begins to realize he has a very strong connection with Worm and can share what seem to be his dragon’s thoughts. After one of the other Dragon Masters decides to illicitly take the dragons outside, disaster strikes. The cave they are passing through collapses, blocking the passageway, and then Worm’s special talent becomes evident. The first of a new series of early chapter books, this entry is sure to attract fans. Brief chapters, large print, lots of action, attractive illustrations in every spread, including a maplike panorama, an enviable protagonist—who wouldn’t want to be a Dragon Master?—all combine to make an entertaining read.

With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-64624-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

THE MYSTERIOUS MESSENGER

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

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 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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