ODDITY

A determinedly offbeat historical American fantasy.

Brown’s first entry into children’s literature preserves his peculiar brand of whimsy in an episodic, often perilous adventure enlivened by charming woodcut-style illustrations. In an alternate 19th century, the Louisiana Purchase failed, leading to war, and now three powers—France, the 11 Unified States, and the Sehanna Confederation—exist in uneasy balance. Thirteen-year-old Clover’s obsession with oddities, strange things that are somehow more—the Wineglass that never runs dry, the Ice Hook that creates its own ice—seems harmless, but oddities killed her mother and attract the bandits who kill her Russian father and precipitate the plot. What follows is a journey through a world with elements both familiar (slavery, rotten politicians, and eager warmongers) and strange. Along the way to the climax, Clover makes friends and enemies and grows up quickly. The vivid sense of place, even pacing, and memorable characterization—including multiple strong girl characters—are real strengths. However, the alternate history narrative may be better appreciated by readers familiar with actual events and therefore able to place the fantasy-world Native nations (inspired by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy) and the history of European colonization in context. The advanced vocabulary makes this a good choice for sophisticated readers. Main characters are White; Clover’s neighbor and mother figure is a formerly enslaved Black woman. Clover’s village of Salamander Lake is a place where, in contrast to other locations in this world, people of different ethnicities mingle as equals.

Intriguing. (map, catalog of oddities) (Historical fantasy. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0851-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Harry's world by GrandPre's comic illustrations and Rowling's expert combination of...

HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

From the Harry Potter series , Vol. 2

This sequel to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998) brings back the doughty young wizard-in-training to face suspicious adults, hostile classmates, fretful ghosts, rambunctious spells, giant spiders, and even an avatar of Lord Voldemort, the evil sorcerer who killed his parents, while saving the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from a deadly, mysterious menace.

Ignoring a most peculiar warning, Harry kicks off his second year at Hogwarts after a dreadful summer with his hateful guardians, the Dursleys, and is instantly cast into a whirlwind of magical pranks and misadventures, culminating in a visit to the hidden cavern where his friend Ron's little sister Ginny lies, barely alive, in a trap set by his worst enemy. Surrounded by a grand mix of wise and inept faculty, sneering or loyal peers—plus an array of supernatural creatures including Nearly Headless Nick and a huge, serpentine basilisk—Harry steadily rises to every challenge, and though he plays but one match of the gloriously chaotic field game Quidditch, he does get in plenty of magic and a bit of swordplay on his way to becoming a hero again.

Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Harry's world by GrandPre's comic illustrations and Rowling's expert combination of broad boarding school farce and high fantasy. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: June 2, 1999

ISBN: 0-439-06486-4

Page Count: 341

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American...

DUST OF EDEN

Crystal-clear prose poems paint a heart-rending picture of 13-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa’s journey from Seattle to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.

This vividly wrought story of displacement, told from Mina’s first-person perspective, begins as it did for so many Japanese-Americans: with the bombs dropping on Pearl Harbor. The backlash of her Seattle community is instantaneous (“Jap, Jap, Jap, the word bounces / around the walls of the hall”), and Mina chronicles its effects on her family with a heavy heart. “I am an American, I scream / in my head, but my mouth is stuffed / with rocks; my body is a stone, like the statue / of a little Buddha Grandpa prays to.” When Roosevelt decrees that West Coast Japanese-Americans are to be imprisoned in inland camps, the Tagawas board up their house, leaving the cat, Grandpa’s roses and Mina’s best friend behind. Following the Tagawas from Washington’s Puyallup Assembly Center to Idaho’s Minidoka Relocation Center (near the titular town of Eden), the narrative continues in poems and letters. In them, injustices such as endless camp lines sit alongside even larger ones, such as the government’s asking interned young men, including Mina’s brother, to fight for America.

An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American internment. (historical note) (Verse/historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1739-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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