THE EGYPTIAN BOX

Tee is resentful, irritable, shy, self-conscious, contrary, and determined to be miserable. In short, she’s a fairly typical middle-school-age girl. She is particularly unhappy because her parents have moved the family from Maine to a small desert town upon receiving a substantial inheritance from an eccentric great uncle, who was an expert in Egyptology. He left Tee a shabti, a small box containing a wooden figure that would act as a servant in the afterlife of an entombed princess. When the hieroglyphs on the box are deciphered, the shabti is awakened. Tee is delighted at first, as she commands the shabti to do her chores, her homework, and even go to school for her, while she spends her days at home reading her beloved adventure stories. The shabti becomes more comfortable in Tee’s world than Tee is herself and eventually attempts to take her place permanently. Fantasy must be completely logical, and must create in the reader an absolute belief in all the possibilities—and Curry (The Wonderful Sky Boat, 2001, etc.) masters the technique admirably. She makes each incident seem not only plausible, but also inevitable. Tee moves from skepticism to total immersion in the magic, and from pleasure to concern about the shabti’s growing power. Along the way she comes to accept her strengths instead of wallowing in her shortcomings and thus achieves a satisfying solution. A well-crafted, unusual, and entertaining voyage. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-84273-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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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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Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world.

THEY THREW US AWAY

From the Teddies Saga series , Vol. 1

The journey to find a child becomes an existential quest for an abandoned teddy bear.

Buddy is not just any stuffed bear, but a blue Furrington Teddy with a Real Silk Heart. So why did he wake up in a landfill with other Furringtons of varying hues? A more pressing matter, however, is escaping Trashland and its murderous gulls and bulldozers. Yearning to connect with a child and achieve a state of peaceful Forever Sleep, Buddy and his new friends of differing temperaments and gifts set out on a harrowing journey through the city to find children who will want them. As they encounter other Furringtons in disarray, this opener in The Teddies Saga series becomes a mystery about why these teddies are being harmed in the first place. While the visceral narrative follows the teddy troupe’s adventurous challenges and survival, its focus is on Buddy’s inner struggles as he ponders identity, leadership, and other existential dilemmas. Kraus doesn’t shy away from anger, fear, death, and other dark subjects; instead they become opportunities for growth in difficult environments. Cai’s intense, slightly nightmarish grayscale illustrations add immeasurably to the text. Reminiscent of Watership Down in theme and structure, the novel’s intermittent teddy creation stories also become parables of a moral code and extend the epic story arc. A cliffhanger ending sets the scene for the next installment.

Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22440-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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