LONDON CALLING

John hates All Souls Preparatory School, where he’s tormented by Hank Lowery, great-grandson of General “Hollerin’ Hank” Lowery, a WWII hero. Or was he? John’s older sister, revising the article on Lowery for her job at an encyclopedia, suspects otherwise. John holds the answer—in a radio bequeathed to him by his grandmother that turns out to be a time-travel device that takes him to the home of a boy named Jimmy in 1940s London. With Jimmy, John observes Lowery at the U.S. Embassy, during the events that precede and follow Jimmy’s death. Then he can answer the question Jimmy puts to him: “What did you do to help?” Helping involves a lot of research on Lowery and the Blitz, and a trip to London to find Jimmy’s aging father. Sound complicated and unwieldy? Just add overtones of religion (Is Jimmy an angel? What does God want of John?) and alcoholism (John’s father) and you’ve got an ungainly mess. The history and ethics are fascinating but are treated to a shallow ending, and though the characters are compelling, the dropped threads will make readers tune out. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-83635-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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FABLEHAVEN

Witty repartee between the central characters, as well as the occasional well-done set piece, isn’t enough to hold this hefty debut together. Teenagers Seth and Kendra are dropped off by traveling parents at their grandfather’s isolated Connecticut estate, and soon discover why he’s so reluctant to have them—the place is a secret haven for magical creatures, both benign and decidedly otherwise. Those others are held in check by a complicated, unwritten and conveniently malleable Compact that is broken on Midsummer Eve, leaving everyone except Kendra captive in a hidden underground chamber with a newly released demon. Mull’s repeated use of the same device to prod the plot along comes off as more labored than comic: Over and over an adult issues a stern but vague warning; Seth ignores it; does some mischief and is sorry afterward. Sometimes Kendra joins in trying to head off her uncommonly dense brother. She comes into her own at the rousing climax, but that takes a long time to arrive; stick with Michael Buckley’s “Sisters Grimm” tales, which carry a similar premise in more amazing and amusing directions. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-59038-581-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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