Unless readers are die-hard Baker fans, they should leave this tale on the shelf. (Fantasy. 8-12)

THE PERFECT MATCH

From the Fairy-Tale Matchmaker series , Vol. 2

Cory, ex–tooth fairy and a Cupid’s granddaughter, returns with her matchmaking bow and arrow in this fairy-tale series’ second installment.

During a housesitting stint for Mrs. Bruin, one of the three bears, Cory catches Goldilocks eating porridge in the bears’ kitchen. At first Cory is annoyed that Goldilocks insists that Cory set her up on a date with Jack Horner. As Cory predicts, that date fails, but in a vision, Cory sees Goldilocks’ true love, Prince Rupert. Alas, Rupert is betrothed to Princess Lillian. Luckily, Cory and her band, Zephyr, are hired to play at the prince’s wedding, where Cory might have a chance to fulfill Goldilocks and Rupert’s romantic destiny. While Baker has a solid track record with her popular princess and fairy-tale books, her prose here feels like it’s on autopilot. Events come off as clichéd, such as the scene where Cory seeks her grandfather’s advice. Instead of potential relationship gold mine opportunities, Lionel gives Cory old-hat advice such as “follow your heart,” and “do what you feel is right.” Cory’s ongoing troubles with the Tooth Fairy Guild, introduced in Book 1, heat up but are not resolved. Some bright lights are an out-of-control water nymph, Rina, and a talking woodchuck, Weegie.

Unless readers are die-hard Baker fans, they should leave this tale on the shelf. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61963-588-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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The young folk and (of course) the animals are engagingly wrought in this tale with a strong ecological message.

WILLODEEN

An orphan loner’s small town faces a hard future after it unwittingly disrupts a natural cycle.

Willodeen is lucky that elderly retired thespians Mae and Birdie took her in after the wildfire that killed her parents and brother, not only because they’re a loving couple, but because they let her roam the woods in search of increasingly rare screechers—creatures so vile-tempered and stinky that the village elders of Perchance have put a bounty on them. The elders have other worries, though: The migratory hummingbears that have long nested in the area, drawing tourists to the lucrative annual Autumn Faire, have likewise nearly vanished. Could there be a connection? If there is, Willodeen is just the person to find it—but who would believe her? Applegate’s characters speak in pronouncements about life and nature that sometimes seem to address readers more than other characters, but the winsome illustrations lighten the thematic load. Screechers appear much like comically fierce warthogs and hummingbears, as small teddies with wings. Applegate traces a burgeoning friendship between her traumatized protagonist and Connor, a young artist who turns found materials into small animals so realistic that one actually comes to life. In the end, the townsfolk do listen and pitch in to make amends. Red-haired, gray-eyed Willodeen is cued as White; Connor has brown skin, and other human characters read as White by default.

The young folk and (of course) the animals are engagingly wrought in this tale with a strong ecological message. (Eco-fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-14740-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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