Recommend only to those set on an undemanding jaunt through retold fairy tales.

UNLOCKING THE SPELL

Annie has been home less than a week after finding a prince to wake up sister Gwennie, aka Sleeping Beauty (The Wide-Awake Princess, 2010), when her father demands she undertake another quest: seek the dwarf who turned Gwennie’s beloved Prince Beldegard into a bear and convince him to undo the spell.

Annie’s conflicted response—gratitude that her newly awakened family no longer shuns her for her gift for repelling magic; resentment that they are so quick to send her away—is quickly sketched, especially in relation to Gwennie. Annie agrees to go after stipulating that Gwennie wait at home while she and her sweetheart Liam, led by Beldegard, make the trip. Surprisingly, Gwennie runs away from the castle to join their journey across many lands and through several fairy tales. As before, readers will delight in the twists the author makes to the familiar tales, seamlessly weaving them into the plot, from “Snow White and Rose Red” to “The Three Little Pigs” and more, but despite the often-comical interactions, there is not much action. The hunt eventually leads the foursome to Snow White’s home with the dwarves (who knew an eighth dwarf had gone bad?). Nor does the stream of sometimes-petulant bickering provide insight into the characters, leaving the sisters’ relationship unplumbed and making the romantic resolutions feel shallow. The hint of a future romance between Snow White and Maitland, Beldegard’s formerly fratricidal brother, is particularly disturbing.

Recommend only to those set on an undemanding jaunt through retold fairy tales. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59990-841-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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A sweet adventure and a paean to imagination and childhood innocence.

THE LAND OF ROAR

From the Land of Roar series , Vol. 1

A fantasy world comes to life and lures its young creators back into it in this imaginative middle-grade debut and U.K. import.

Narrator Arthur always loved playing make-believe in Grandad’s attic with his twin sister, Rose. Years ago they dreamed up Roar, a magical land that they entered via an old fold-up cot that acted as a portal. Now that they are 11 and starting school at Langdon Academy, Rose has new friends and wants nothing to do with her brother or their imaginary world. Rose may be done with Roar, but it’s not finished with her. When their grandfather is kidnapped and taken into Roar, Arthur and Rose must team up to mount a rescue mission. McLachlan does an excellent job of establishing the sibling tension before introducing the fantasy elements, and Rose’s desire to grow up and fit in feels as familiar and accessible as Arthur’s yearning to remain a child. While obviously reminiscent of classic fantasy, this narrative’s sheer inventiveness marks it as distinct. The twins’ widowed grandfather, a larger-than-life jokester from Mauritius, is a Peter Pan–like figure whose abduction brings the narrative into Roar, allowing the text and Mantle’s illustrations to go wild with creativity. The use of a wordless double-page spread to depict Arthur’s arrival into the fantasy realm is particularly inventive. Arthur and Rose are depicted as kids of color.

A sweet adventure and a paean to imagination and childhood innocence. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-298271-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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