Extraordinary—not to be missed.

READ REVIEW

THE LANGUAGE OF SPELLS

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

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read.

ALI CROSS

The prolific king of the beach read is back with an intergenerational mystery for the 9-to-12-year-old set.

Ali Cross, the son of Patterson’s most famous creation, African American homicide detective Alex Cross, is “starting to think the worst might have happened” to his mixed-race friend Gabriel “Gabe” Qualls, who disappeared on Dec. 21 and hasn’t been heard from as of Christmas Eve, when the book opens. Ali offers an impromptu prayer for Gabe at the pre-holiday service at his all-black church as well as an impromptu press conference outside of it as journalists and paparazzi confront Alex about his alleged coma-inducing assault of a murder suspect’s father. Then someone robs the Crosses’ home that night along with four other homes; the Crosses’ Christmas gifts are stolen. Ali, obsessed with finding Gabe and feeling that these events will distract his dad and the police from searching for him, starts his own investigation—complete with looking at some contraband footage of Gabe’s unusually loaded backpack obtained by Ali’s stepmother, also a cop—and questioning his school and gaming pals, a diverse group. Writing in Ali’s voice with occasional cutaways to third-person chapters that follow Alex, Patterson sprinkles the narrative with pop-culture references even as he takes readers through the detective process.

Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-53041-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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