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Amelia, the Venutons and the Golden Cage

From the Amelia's Amazing Space Adventures series , Vol. 2

A lively sequel offers a sure-handed blend of fantasy, humor, adventure, and an ingenious heroine.

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In this second installment of a space-travel fantasy series for young readers, a little girl and her purple alien pal visit Venus.

At the end of the first book in Amelia’s Amazing Space Adventures chapter-book series, the 8-year-old title character returns from a trip to the moon with her new friend Uglesnoo, a three-armed visitor from Pluto. The two are working their way through the solar system (one planet per volume, it seems) to locate items necessary to save Uglesnoo’s sister from an “endless sleep” and to find an antidote for the rafter-raising snores of Amelia’s sibling. Next stop: Venus, to collect “20 Bliss Bubbles” in exchange for 10 boxes of “Moo-Bon” candy, acquired from the Moochin moon dwellers as a reward for helping them reclaim their underwater Sapphire Palace. Venus is home to catlike “Venutons,” who breathe out silver “bliss bubbles” while sleeping. (These can be cut and knotted at the ends like balloons. The deeper the sleep, the larger the bubbles.) Awakened, the Venutons make it clear that bliss bubble collectors are not welcome. After betrayal by cave-dwelling rabbit creatures, imprisonment in a rolling golden cage shaped like a giant ball of yarn, and a tussle aboard Uglesnoo’s spaceship with one last vengeful Venuton, the pair escapes thanks to Amelia’s quick thinking. Dispensing with the realities of planetary science, Blanchard (Amelia, the Moochins and the Sapphire Palace, 2014) has fun with her imaginary solar system and its inhabitants. Readers should, too. But as wacky as things get (chocolate rain from an “Interspecies Feeder”), Blanchard also delivers thoughtful balance (“The stars scattered like spilled sugar in the inky darkness”). She grounds her plot, too, in Amelia’s relatable moments of uncertainty and her ability to use her head to solve dilemmas as well as in helpful reminders of the escapade’s central purpose: curing Uglesnoo’s sister. Motz’s full-bleed, cartoon-style illustrations, mixed with variously colored text-only pages, reflect the book’s offbeat appeal.

A lively sequel offers a sure-handed blend of fantasy, humor, adventure, and an ingenious heroine.

Pub Date: March 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5236-3671-6

Page Count: 62

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2016

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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CORALINE

Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister:...

A magnificently creepy fantasy pits a bright, bored little girl against a soul-eating horror that inhabits the reality right next door.

Coraline’s parents are loving, but really too busy to play with her, so she amuses herself by exploring her family’s new flat. A drawing-room door that opens onto a brick wall becomes a natural magnet for the curious little girl, and she is only half-surprised when, one day, the door opens onto a hallway and Coraline finds herself in a skewed mirror of her own flat, complete with skewed, button-eyed versions of her own parents. This is Gaiman’s (American Gods, 2001, etc.) first novel for children, and the author of the Sandman graphic novels here shows a sure sense of a child’s fears—and the child’s ability to overcome those fears. “I will be brave,” thinks Coraline. “No, I am brave.” When Coraline realizes that her other mother has not only stolen her real parents but has also stolen the souls of other children before her, she resolves to free her parents and to find the lost souls by matching her wits against the not-mother. The narrative hews closely to a child’s-eye perspective: Coraline never really tries to understand what has happened or to fathom the nature of the other mother; she simply focuses on getting her parents back and thwarting the other mother for good. Her ability to accept and cope with the surreality of the other flat springs from the child’s ability to accept, without question, the eccentricity and arbitrariness of her own—and every child’s own—reality. As Coraline’s quest picks up its pace, the parallel world she finds herself trapped in grows ever more monstrous, generating some deliciously eerie descriptive writing.

Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister: Coraline is spot on. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-97778-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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