A mildly creepy, ultimately comforting take on familiar themes of love, family, and identity.


A girl conjured from bone dust longs to be real—and loved—in Kassner’s debut.

Eleven-year-old Irréelle doesn’t believe in ghosts, though she spends her days beneath a cemetery—the titular “bone garden”—extracting bone dust for her sinister creator, Miss Vesper. But she is haunted. Miss Vesper constantly criticizes Irréelle’s “mismatched” and “muddled” white hair, multicolored eyes, and crooked limbs; worse, she reminds Irréelle that she’s “a figment of [her] imagination, tethered here by the finest thread.” Terrified of being wished away, Irréelle vows to complete an “impossible” task in hopes that Miss Vesper will make her “normal” and “fully real. Maybe then she would be worthy of love.” As Irréelle and her somewhat one-dimensional fellow creations—wisecracking Guy, fearless Lass, and the mischievous, disembodied Hand—search for “the unmarked grave that is very clearly marked” while dodging Miss Vesper’s wrath, Irréelle learns that being “real” takes many forms. Many predicaments resolve with remarkable ease, diminishing suspense. However, the author perceptively depicts the confusion of living with an emotionally abusive caregiver; Irréelle’s love for Miss Vesper despite her cruelty is painfully realistic. The ending feels a bit too tidy, but Irréelle’s newfound self-confidence is rewarding. Saunders’ dark, scratchy line drawings accent the lyrical prose. Miss Vesper and Irréelle present white; the Hand appears dark-skinned, Guy is racially ambiguous, and Lass appears to be a person of color.

A mildly creepy, ultimately comforting take on familiar themes of love, family, and identity. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-29689-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.


A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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