Visually dreamlike, textually grounded: a deft balance proving that a single-issue exploration needn’t be formulaic or dry.

A STORY ABOUT CANCER (WITH A HAPPY ENDING)

After five years of leukemia treatments, a 15-year-old gets her prognosis.

“In just a few minutes, they’re going to tell me how much time I have left to live,” opens this slim volume holding a full-bodied story. As the narrator walks down a hospital corridor, the door at the end appears so small it almost vanishes, showing how far away her fate still feels. While waiting, she takes readers through her years of treatment, touching on medical, emotional, and social aspects as well as hospital smells and sounds. She experiences romance; she has strong but unidealized parents. Cancer clichés receive welcome push back: Her best friend’s death was “definitely not because she wasn’t strong enough or didn’t fight hard enough,” and her own process isn’t a “battle…because there was nothing I could do to fight it. All I could do was let everything happen.” The titular spoiler sets this reassuringly apart from cancer stories that lean on suspense. Ferrer illustrates every page in pen and watercolor, using mostly reds and greens of low intensity that range dramatically from pale to dark; blacks and browns are secondary. Some visual elements are unnerving and fantastical—doors and tiles at a slant, bodies boneless or full of Swiss cheese–like holes. Compositions are ever shifting. Most characters’, including the protagonist’s, skin tones range from pallor to healthy pink.

Visually dreamlike, textually grounded: a deft balance proving that a single-issue exploration needn’t be formulaic or dry. (Picture book. 9-15)

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78603-977-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun.

STARSIGHT

From the Skyward series , Vol. 2

As if the threat of huge, raging monsters from hyperspace isn’t scary enough, hotshot fighter pilot Spensa Nightshade becomes embroiled in an alien empire’s politics.

On a desperate mission to steal hyperdrive technology from the crablike invading Krell who are threatening to destroy her beleaguered home colony on Detritus, Spensa, who is white, holographically disguises herself as a violet-skinned UrDail and slips into a Krell pilot training program for “lesser species.” The discovery that she’s being secretly trained not to fight planet-destroying delvers but to exterminate humans, who are (with some justification, having kindled three interstellar wars in past centuries) regarded in certain quarters as an irrationally aggressive species, is just one in a string of revelations as, in between numerous near-death experiences on practice flights, she struggles to understand both her own eerie abilities and the strange multispecies society in which she finds herself. There are so many characters besides Spensa searching for self-identity—notably her comic-relief sidekick AI M-Bot, troubled human friend Jorgen back on Detritus, and Morriumur, member of a species whose color-marked sexes create trial offspring—that even with a plot that defaults to hot action and escalating intrigue the pacing has a stop and start quality. Still, Spensa’s habitual over-the-top recklessness adds a rousing spark, and the author folds in plenty of banter as well as a colorful supporting cast.

Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55581-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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