THE LANGUAGE OF SPELLS

Extraordinary—not to be missed.

Set primarily in Vienna, this middle-grade novel explores themes of honor and courage as it tells the story of a friendship between a young girl and a dragon.

Grisha, a dragon, was born in the Black Forest in 1803, a time when magic was still commonplace. When a powerful sorcerer’s enchantment turns Grisha into a teapot, he can still see and hear, but he cannot move or speak. After many decades, which include the two human world wars, Grisha is freed and travels to Vienna, where he has heard that dragons are congregating—but soon after he arrives, many of the dragons mysteriously disappear. He meets 11-year-old Maggie, who lives in Vienna’s Sacher Hotel with her poet father. Grisha is pleased and gratified that Maggie can see him since, by now, humans have become so busy and preoccupied that they no longer see what they don’t wish to see, which includes dragons and magic in general—one of many equally graceful observations that amplify this delicate, original story into something much more than its plot. The two become friends and determine to find the missing dragons. Weyr’s deft, assured narrative is interwoven with dry humor and percipient observations as it explores the value of seeing magic in one’s life as well as the honor of sacrifice. Harnett’s evocative black-and-white illustrations add atmospheric richness, depicting its human cast as white Europeans.

Extraordinary—not to be missed. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5958-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

THE WORLD-FAMOUS NINE

A whodunit that doesn’t live up to its intriguing premise.

Coded clues put two young sleuths on the trail of a magic mandala hidden somewhere in a huge, bustling department store.

Hardly has meek young Zander Olinga arrived for a visit with Zina Winebee, his grandmother and owner-manager of the Number Nine Plaza, than he learns of a threat to the continued existence of the renowned emporium. The danger is linked to Darkbloom, a rumored evil spirit set on reversing the good-fortune charm left by Nepali monks at the store’s founding. The stone tablet bearing the magical mandala vanished 90 years ago, and finding its hiding place becomes a race pitting Zander and intrepid new ally Natasha Novikov against unknown saboteurs whose minds have been taken over by Darkbloom. The keys to the tablet’s location are a series of ingenious word and number clues left by Zander’s great-granduncle Vladimir, and Guterson provides enough hints along the way for savvy readers to decode them. What he doesn’t do is give either his leads or the many-faceted store (which, over the course of the story, is explored from the Ferris wheel on its roof to the bakery in the cellar) any more depth or distinctive traits than he gives Nepali religious practice. Darkbloom remains a shadowy bugaboo, its actual nature and motivations unexplained and its fate left anticlimactically unresolved. Zander’s father is from Cameroon, and his mother reads white; names cue some diversity in the supporting cast. Final art not seen. (This review has been updated for factual accuracy.)

A whodunit that doesn’t live up to its intriguing premise. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2024

ISBN: 9780316484442

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

LEGACY AND THE DOUBLE

From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

Close Quickview