A sweet but not overly sugary treat for unicorn devotees.

SECRET BENEATH THE SAND

From the Unicorn Island series , Vol. 2

Investigating the source of a mysterious drain on her immortal charges’ magic leads apprentice unicorn protector Samantha straight to startling revelations about her family.

Seeing the horns of the secret herd on fog-shrouded Unicorn Island rapidly shrinking spurs Sam to ignore the keep-clear orders of her secretive Uncle Mitch and not just break into his hidden library in search of a cure, but to go to town vet Mel, mother of her best friend, Tuck, for help. Adventures and mildly dangerous mishaps ensue on the way to a rather convoluted resolution involving Smeesie, a scary but nonhostile, Bigfoot-like grendell, who stumbled onto the island years before through a magical portal and only wants to go home. Reopening the portal will take the last of the unicorns’ magic. Fortunately, there’s a curative salve for that. Chapter-book readers will be drawn in by the spacious page design and Stancliffe’s lightly romanticized views of girl and unicorns sporting equally long, luxuriant locks. To set up future episodes, Galanti rounds off this series entry with stunning news about Sam’s parents, then closes with informational notes and photos about hooves, salves, and other STEM-centric facts. Sam reads as White and Tuck as Black in the artwork.

A sweet but not overly sugary treat for unicorn devotees. (Fantasy. 7-11)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5248-7197-0

Page Count: 215

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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

RISE OF THE EARTH DRAGON

From the Dragon Masters series , Vol. 1

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 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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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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