JOURNEY TO THE RIVER SEA

Known for witty, entertaining fantasies, Ibbotson (Dial-a-Ghost, p. 744, etc.) dispenses with magic wands and mythical creatures here and dishes up her best work yet—a topnotch 1910 adventure featuring exotic, vividly evoked locales, a caricature-rich cast filled with likeable (as well as thoroughly despicable) characters, and enough plot to fill an entire trilogy. Two years after the death of her parents, young Maia departs London’s Mayfair Academy For Young Ladies for Manaus, a remote town on the Amazon where the Carters, distant relatives, have at last been located. With her travels a new governess, Miss Arabella Minton, outwardly a cross between Mary Poppins and Atilla the Hun, inwardly a canny, resourceful, big-hearted sort with sadness in her past. Together, Maia and Miss Minton confront the Carters, as dysfunctional a crew as ever was, and also become involved in rescuing two more young orphans—one a penniless actor, the other a scion of a wealthy British aristocrat’s black-sheep son—from unpleasant fates. While skillfully weaving together numerous plot lines and suspense-intensifying complications—Maia and Miss Minton, for instance, love but do not come to understand or trust each other until nearly the end—the author gives her four central characters the inner stuff to cope with an array of challenging situations, and rewards them all with bright, diverse futures. And, of course, their prejudiced, mean-spirited adversaries get what they deserve in full measure. With a rain forest steeped in beauty and mystery for backdrop, this romp will transport not just Ibbotson’s fans, but legions of Potterites and their ilk as well. Illustrations not seen. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-46739-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2001

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GUTS

THE TRUE STORIES BEHIND HATCHET AND THE BRIAN BOOKS

Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.

THE STARS BELOW

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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