Vibrant characters and prose energize this literary adventure.


A 12-year-old boy tries to save a world made of words in this middle-grade fantasy novel.

British-Iraqi Ankido Gulzar is saddened by the news his archaeologist father has disappeared in Iraq. Unfortunately, Habubti, Ankido’s beloved grandmother, is leaving him behind as she searches for his father. An acclaimed fantasy novelist, Habubti asks her grandson to care for her latest, unfinished book, cryptically specifying to keep it out of the hands of Aunt Geraldine. In Habubti’s absence, Geraldine makes a grab for the Gulzar estate by sending Ankido, the heir, to a boarding school. On the way, the boy loses consciousness, awakens, and soon finds himself in a “crossroads between worlds.” He meets Zinaida, a wanderer, who tells Ankido that “the Land of Mesopo”—the title of Habubti’s book—is dying. Mesopo is made of words and a thief, Humbaba, is gradually stealing all of them. Evidently, the Book (Habubti’s) has chosen Ankido as the new Tale Smith; indeed, the boy lately has been dreaming of entirely new words. With an ability to create worlds with invented words, Ankido may be able to rescue Mesopo, as its many books are “the pillars of mankind’s literacy.” Ankido is a well-rounded protagonist, wielding words as a weapon but also struggling to overcome sporadic fits of anger. Dynamic characters fill the pages, from creepy, fishlike River People (Humbaba’s bondsmen) to Geraldine’s winsome stepdaughters, Leila and Salma, who find their own way to Mesopo to help their cousin Ankido. Dietrich (The Great Rainbow Hug, 2011) masterfully visualizes the fantastic world: Recurring blots or pools of black ink signify Mesopo’s slowly diminishing word count. Kallick’s (Sophie’s Quest, 2018) complementary artwork is colorful and detailed, though, disappointingly, there are only two of her dual-page illustrations. The engaging tale is a quick read for young readers and adults. And while it seems the author is priming it for a series, this book can act as a stand-alone.

Vibrant characters and prose energize this literary adventure.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73151-821-7

Page Count: 333

Publisher: Sable Tyger Books

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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