Steeped in the rich traditions of ghost stories and Jewish folklore, this remarkable feat of storytelling is sure to delight.

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THE WAY BACK

A Jewish boy and girl journey to the Far Country on the other side of the cemetery seeking to find that which they lost.

The story begins in a shtetl called Tupik, where a boy named Yehuda Leib and a girl named Bluma each have unexpected encounters with Death, setting them both on separate journeys through the cemetery on the edge of the village and into the Far Country, seeking the House of Death to reclaim what they lost. On their way, they pass through the town of Zubinsk, where the holy Rebbe’s granddaughter is about to be married in a highly anticipated wedding that draws not only Hasidim and visitors from all over, but also all manner of demons and spirits seeking an audience with the revered Rebbe. Bluma’s and Yehuda Leib’s winding paths cross until they finally band together to defeat their mutual foe with the help of some unlikely allies they meet along the way. Though their cleverness, grit, and dastardly alliances may get them far in the Far Country, they may not ultimately be enough to defeat Death itself. Lyrical and fantastic, this richly layered yarn is liberally sprinkled with bits of Yiddish and a wry, sparkling humor that balances its darker tendencies with sympathy and warmth.

Steeped in the rich traditions of ghost stories and Jewish folklore, this remarkable feat of storytelling is sure to delight. (Fantasy. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984894-62-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A reimagined folktale as grand as its painted visuals are sublime.

SHUNA'S JOURNEY

A dangerous quest to feed an impoverished land leads to chance encounters and awe-inspiring sights.

Shuna, the prince of a humble, struggling country, acts on the advice of a dying traveler from an Eastern land to seek out seeds that will grow bountiful grains. What he finds is a hostile city built on greed with an active slave trade. After meeting Thea and her little sister, Shuna fights to free them from enslavers. Every scene in this cinematic work stands apart with breathtaking watercolors aided by expert staging and blocking. The sights along Shuna’s journey range from a derelict ship in a treacherous desert to supernatural creatures and settings. The certainty and simplicity of Shuna’s motivations along with Thea’s own narrative arc allow the story to move nimbly from one larger-than-life spectacle to another. The pages read right-to-left manga style, while large panels and minimal dialogue create an immediate, immersive experience for readers. The narration sits outside or along the edges of panels, allowing the lush visuals maximum room to impress. Afterwords from the author and translator describe the story’s roots in a Tibetan folktale as well as comparisons to Miyazaki’s later animated works; this story, translated from Japanese, was originally published in Japan in 1983 before Miyazaki rose to fame with Studio Ghibli. The story’s cultural origins are cued through characters’ garb and other visual elements.

A reimagined folktale as grand as its painted visuals are sublime. (Graphic fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-84652-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A rush of emotion and suspense.

THE FIRST TO DIE AT THE END

Crowds gather across the United States for the launch of Death-Cast, a company that promises to change the world by predicting the deaths of everyone who subscribes in this prequel to They Both Die at the End (2017).

Orion Pagan, an aspiring author with a heart condition, hopes his phone won’t ring at midnight, but he knows Death-Cast’s call is coming soon. Unlike Orion, Valentino Prince, a model on the verge of his national debut, has no reason to anticipate Death-Cast’s call and isn’t sure if he believes the company’s claims. By coincidence or fate, their lives collide at a party in Times Square, and a single, historic phone call alters the courses of their futures. This heart-pounding story follows the final day of the first Decker, or person who is going to die, and the national chaos of Death-Cast’s premiere. Silvera crafts a web of intricately interconnected character perspectives and conflicts around Orion and Valentino. Apart from Valentino and his twin sister, who are presumed White, most of the characters are Latine, including White-passing Orion, whose family is Puerto Rican. The story confronts heavy topics like grief, abuse, and religious faith with complexity and care. Despite the presumed inevitability of a fatal end to the central romance between Orion and Valentino, Silvera subverts the trope of punishing gay characters with violent tragedy. Familiarity with the original book provides additional context and depth but isn’t essential to understanding the plot.

A rush of emotion and suspense. (Speculative fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-324080-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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