Sits in a comfortable midpoint on the fluffy-to-substantive spectrum, giving it broad appeal.

UNTWISTED

From the Twinchantment series , Vol. 2

Middle school is really hard…even if you’re a princess.

After saving their mother from a curse in Twinchantment (2019), brown-skinned princesses Flissa and Sara thought they had ushered in a new age of unity for Kaloon’s non-Mages, like their parents, Mages like them, and Magical Animals. But with Kaloonification, all children—Mages, the general population, and Magical Animals alike—must attend the same public school, led by headmistress Amala, an old Mage once associated with the movement to cleanse Kaloon of its nonmagical population. She’s supposedly reformed, but as the kids get into the swing of things, tensions among the three groups of students do nothing but rise, and Amala seems but performatively concerned at best. Sara and Flissa’s own relationship becomes strained as they for the first time enter the public world as individuals, not twins pretending to be one princess. The book is both a typical middle school story of changing friendships and alliances, just with magic added, and also a slightly heavy-handed allegory about bigotry, social justice, and community. With so many groups of people, it’s sometimes difficult to keep the characters straight, and a rushed, clichéd ending cheapens what is otherwise a delightful story. But this is high fantasy that reads as contemporary, with magical technology and everyday, colloquial speech rather than the affected, medieval-meets-Renaissance language and customs characteristic of most high fantasy, neatly broadening its audience.

Sits in a comfortable midpoint on the fluffy-to-substantive spectrum, giving it broad appeal. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-00863-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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A road trip to remember.

CLEAN GETAWAY

Using the Negro Travelers’ Green Book and her hidden past as a road map, a grandma takes her grandson on a cross country journey.

When G’ma pulls up to William “Scoob” Lamar’s house in a brand-new Winnebago and invites him on an adventure, Scoob leaves a note for his dad and jumps in. Despite not knowing where they are going, or why G’ma has traded in her Mini Cooper and house for the RV, Scoob is a willing wingman because he wants to save spring break and escape his strict single dad for a few days. Readers will appreciate the bond between Scoob and G’ma; Stone balances fun with emotion for a compelling read. After they cross from Georgia to Alabama and G’ma keeps avoiding Dad’s calls, Scoob begins to get suspicious. When G’ma lets him see the contents of her once off-limits treasure box, which includes a 1963 edition of the Travelers’ Green Book, Scoob understands this trip means much more than even he imagined. The complex role race plays in their family and on this trip—Scoob is mixed-race and presents black, and G’ma is white—is explored in a meaningful way that provides details about a period in time as well as present-day realities. Rich in history, Stone’s middle-grade debut entertains and informs young readers. The subdued ending may frustrate, but the journey, punctuated by Anyabwile’s grayscale cartoons, is well worth it.

A road trip to remember. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9297-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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