The twists along this charming road make for an enchanting journey.

THE UGLY PRINCESS

THE LEGEND OF THE WINNOWWOOD

An ugly princess with magical powers must save her island from invasion by the vicious Druzazzi.

In the tradition of The Princess Bride (with somewhat less whimsy) and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Smith’s debut is a fairy tale in a new world. Olive is princess of Rosemount and one of a race of women known as the Winnowwood, who have a magical connection to the natural world and the ability to shape-shift into animal forms. However, each time she uses her powers, a Winnowwood gets progressively uglier. If she cuts off the extra joint, or crux, on her left pinkie that holds her magic, she becomes beautiful—but loses her powers. Olive’s sister Rosaline happily sacrifices her crux for beauty and looks forward to marriage to the handsome but shady Prince Victore, leaving Olive as the last Winnowwood with a crux. Olive has vowed never to cut it off, despite her father’s hatred; even when she saved their island from a Druzazzi invasion, her father was more embarrassed that his fellow kings saw her ugliness than thankful that she and her animal friends saved them from certain death. On Olive’s 18th birthday, her father is ambushed and taken prisoner by the neighboring king of Alganoun; the ransom is for Rosaline to marry an Alganoun prince. Olive takes Rosaline’s place in hopes of rescuing her father, but on the road, she’s kidnapped by the dreaded highwayman Black Bart—himself no Adonis. Soon, it becomes clear that there are deeper conspiracies at work and that the Druzazzi are about to make another attempt on the island. Olive begins to wonder if Bart may be the man to lift the curse of the Winnowwood—by loving her despite her looks. Unfortunately, the text is in need of another round of editing—inexplicable switches in tense, clunky phrasing and a need for some better-placed punctuation—and certain scenes, such as Olive in cat form spying on Bart with a mouse sitting on her head to guide her, need more attention to detail. Yet the theme of the power of natural magic versus that of human beauty is treated seriously without getting didactic, and most of the characters, including Olive, are intriguingly flawed. In the end, most readers will look forward to the sequel promised in the epilogue.

The twists along this charming road make for an enchanting journey.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2013

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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A witty addition to the long-running series.

THE DEEP END

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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