A yummy debut, though readers with sensitive stomachs would be well-advised to check them at the door.

THE LEAGUE OF BEASTLY DREADFULS

From the League of Beastly Dreadfuls series , Vol. 1

Two sinister spinsters spirit a seemingly ordinary fifth-grader away one day to a moldering former asylum, informing her that she's become an orphan and they are her great-aunts. Yeah, right.

"Now sit up straight and eat your Lumps." Locked into her room at night by "Aunts" Primrose and Prudence and fed only Mystery Lumps, Anastasia nearly succumbs to misery at first. But like her capable literary heroine, detective/veterinarian/artist Francie Dewdrop, she's made of sterner stuff—and is soon turning up startling clues, terrifying discoveries and, in the asylum's darker reaches, other young captives with decidedly peculiar abilities. Along with drawing most of her characters from Roald Dahl's casting company and concocting an eerie setting positively made for Unfortunate Events, Grant threads her narrative with direct addresses to Readers and delicious turns of phrase: "A pink-patterned carpet runner spooled down the steps like a monstrous spotty tongue." Not to mention multiple atmosphere-lightening references to Anastasia's "tragic flatulence" and the odd wade into the nearby bog to gather leeches for, ugh, nonmedicinal purposes. Anastasia herself displays a few quirks, such as a sudden appetite for moths. Despite revelations following a rescue by a pair of shape-changing allies, the author leaves at least one sequel's worth of unexplained puzzles. Portillo's frequent vignettes add a properly cobwebby Gothic look.

A yummy debut, though readers with sensitive stomachs would be well-advised to check them at the door. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37007-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood.

REBOUND

In this prequel to Newbery Award–winning The Crossover (2014), Alexander revisits previous themes and formats while exploring new ones.

For Charlie Bell, the future father of The Crossover’s Jordan and Josh, his father’s death alters his relationship with his mother and causes him to avoid what reminds him of his dad. At first, he’s just withdrawn, but after he steals from a neighbor, his mother packs a reluctant Charlie off to his grandparents near Washington, D.C., for the summer. His grandfather works part-time at a Boys and Girls Club where his cousin Roxie is a star basketball player. Despite his protests, she draws him into the game. His time with his grandparents deepens Charlie’s understanding of his father, and he begins to heal. “I feel / a little more normal, / like maybe he’s still here, / … in a / as long as I remember him / he’s still right here / in my heart / kind of way.” Once again, Alexander has given readers an African-American protagonist to cheer. He is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, especially two brilliant female characters, his friend CJ and his cousin Roxie, as well as his feisty and wise granddaddy. Music and cultural references from the late 1980s add authenticity. The novel in verse is enhanced by Anyabwile’s art, which reinforces Charlie’s love for comics.

An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood. (Historical verse fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-86813-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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