The lively final volume of a charming series.

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DRAGON LAD

WAND OF THE BLACK SPHERE

Stevens’ (Dragon Lad: Tale of the Talisman, 2017, etc.) middle-grade fantasy-trilogy conclusion sees his titular hero revisiting loved ones and battling his sorceress nemesis.

Thirteen-year-old Dirk lives with his family on a farm in Britannia, which is under Roman control. Last year, he escaped a curse, created by the sorceress Ethelda, and, thanks to Beldor, the High Wizard of the West, he can use a magic ring to change between human and dragon forms. He’s restless for adventure and misses his friends, so he sneaks away to visit Beldor at his cave. The wizard and his companion, Ydda, help the boy forge a magical sword. Dirk then plans to visit the island of Codhaven, where his beloved Galinda lives and is about to celebrate her 13th birthday. However, a strange white bird has been observing Dirk—an extension of Ethelda, who craves revenge for the death of her husband, Augurald, who was killed by dragon fire. She’s also manipulating other people who might help her find the Wand of the Black Sphere. It turns out that a cracked, black orb is now in the possession of Roman commander Lucius Cassius Taurinus—and that Dirk may have a second, intact wand. The third volume of Stevens’ middle-grade series is a perfect balance of education and entertainment. A few light opening scenes reintroduce readers to the city of London before it became a teeming metropolis. Unusual terms, such as “triclinium”—a room for lounging and eating—are unobtrusively defined in the story. Along with vibrant history, the author ably develops two major themes. The first is that animals should be treated like people; Dirk can speak with various fauna and has friends among them, such as Pinkfoot, a goose. The boy protagonist also longs to visit the wild while toiling on his family’s farm. The second theme is that family is about more than mere blood relationship; Dirk still considers his dragon-mother, Gernith, to be an important part of his life regardless of the curse that initially bound them together. Detailed illustrations by the author enliven scenes throughout.

The lively final volume of a charming series.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9963839-8-1

Page Count: 238

Publisher: Dragon's Egg Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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