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

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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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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

GHOSTS

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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