A smart kid’s goofball adventure.

WHAT WE FOUND IN THE CORN MAZE AND HOW IT SAVED A DRAGON

Magic works? Can it save Cal’s family’s farm?

Twelve-year-old Cal and his best friend, Drew, are momentarily distracted from Cal’s family’s problems—caused in no small part by Cal when he accidentally started a fire in the harvester—when they learn that classmate Modesty can practice magic. She’s found a binder of magic spells, but they work only for a minute and only at certain times of the day, and most of the spells are 800-word tongue twisters that can’t be said in under one minute. In puzzling this out, they end up discovering that in a parallel world called Congroo, magic is imperiled because its dragons are dying. With the help of Preface Arrowshot, a young, green-skinned Congruent librarian, the kids discover that the local entrepreneur who’s got his eyes on Cal’s family’s farm may be at the root of the problem. Stopping him could save Congroo and the dragons, and it also might save the farm. Unrelated to the similarly titled What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World (2013), this is a good choice for fans of The Phantom Tollbooth and The Westing Game and Chris Grabenstein’s Mr. Lemoncello books. While there’s plenty of slapstick, the physical comedy is surrounded by wordplay, a good balance of sophisticated and silly. Subtle jabs at climate change deniers and unqualified wannabe world leaders add layers to Clark’s newest. Cal presents white; Drew and Modesty both have brown skin.

A smart kid’s goofball adventure. (Fantasy. 8-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-49231-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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