Unusual and excellent, containing wonder within.

SALT MAGIC

An eerie graphic novel slides from apparent historical fiction into an unsettling fairy tale.

Larson and Mock open this story with a kiss, as Elber, just returning to Gypsum, Oklahoma, from fighting in World War I, proposes to hometown girl Amelia. Elber’s youngest sister, Vonceil, 11, watches in envy and disgust: Until Elber left two years ago, she had been his favorite companion. At the hastily arranged wedding, volatile Great-Uncle Dell accuses Amelia of being the white witch who killed his brother Jesse nearly 70 years earlier. Not long after these events, a mysterious woman dressed in white comes to town, accuses Elber of abandoning her in France, and magically turns the farm’s fresh spring to salt water. Vonceil goes to Great-Uncle Dell for help, and he tells her a strange story that parallels an adventure that Vonceil then has with a sugar witch. After that, the story gets complicated. The tension between fully grounded reality (e.g., the Sears house the family built) and wild fantasy (e.g., the witch’s fetes) pulls the tale in opposite directions, but somehow Vonceil’s pragmatism and Larson’s clean writing keep the thread from breaking. Mock’s full-color illustrations portray mood and atmosphere extremely effectively through novel page layouts and kaleidoscopic points of view. Characters read as White.

Unusual and excellent, containing wonder within. (Graphic fantasy. 10-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4620-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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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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THE LIGHTNING THIEF

From the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series , Vol. 1

Edgar Award–winning Riordan leaves the adult world of mystery to begin a fantasy series for younger readers. Twelve-year-old Percy (full name, Perseus) Jackson has attended six schools in six years. Officially diagnosed with ADHD, his lack of self-control gets him in trouble again and again. What if it isn’t his fault? What if all the outrageous incidents that get him kicked out of school are the result of his being a “half-blood,” the product of a relationship between a human and a Greek god? Could it be true that his math teacher Mrs. Dodds transformed into a shriveled hag with bat wings, a Fury, and was trying to kill him? Did he really vanquish her with a pen that turned into a sword? One need not be an expert in Greek mythology to enjoy Percy’s journey to retrieve Zeus’s master bolt from the Underworld, but those who are familiar with the deities and demi-gods will have many an ah-ha moment. Along the way, Percy and his cohort run into Medusa, Cerberus and Pan, among others. The sardonic tone of the narrator’s voice lends a refreshing air of realism to this riotously paced quest tale of heroism that questions the realities of our world, family, friendship and loyalty. (Fantasy. 12-15)

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7868-5629-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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