Sweet and engaging but less than the sum of its parts. (Fantasy. 8-12)



A whimsical fairy tale is stretched rather thin in this low-key novella.

James, heir to the duchy of Callanshire, has spent most of his 8 1/2 years asking nonstop questions, until his loving but exasperated family ships him off to Cranford Abbey to be educated. But the monks are otherwise preoccupied with driving off the unicorns that feast upon their apple orchard. Countless heroes have tried and failed to stop the annual raids; how can one clever and homesick little boy come up with the perfect solution? Yolen (who simply cannot write a graceless sentence) displays her strengths here: poking fun at heroic stereotypes, celebrating curiosity and imagination, and revealing both the homely everydayness of the magical and the wondrous beauty of the ordinary. Each individual vignette—charming, witty, poignant and dreamlike—is perfect in itself; yet stitched together, the awkward shifts in viewpoint and tone betray the narrative’s origin as an expanded short story. It is difficult to identify a target audience: The sophisticated prose and subtle themes are suited for middle-graders, but few are likely to identify with such a young protagonist; this might work best as a classroom (or bedtime) read-aloud. The handsome design complements Yolen's prose.

Sweet and engaging but less than the sum of its parts. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-310-74648-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Zonderkidz

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.


The comical longings of little girls who want to be big girls—exercising to the chant of "We must—we must—increase our bust!"—and the wistful longing of Margaret, who talks comfortably to God, for a religion, come together as her anxiety to be normal, which is natural enough in sixth grade.

And if that's what we want to tell kids, this is a fresh, unclinical case in point: Mrs. Blume (Iggie's House, 1969) has an easy way with words and some choice ones when the occasion arises. But there's danger in the preoccupation with the physical signs of puberty—with growing into a Playboy centerfold, the goal here, though the one girl in the class who's on her way rues it; and with menstruating sooner rather than later —calming Margaret, her mother says she was a late one, but the happy ending is the first drop of blood: the effect is to confirm common anxieties instead of allaying them. (And countertrends notwithstanding, much is made of that first bra, that first dab of lipstick.) More promising is Margaret's pursuit of religion: to decide for herself (earlier than her 'liberal' parents intended), she goes to temple with a grandmother, to church with a friend; but neither makes any sense to her—"Twelve is very late to learn." Fortunately, after a disillusioning sectarian dispute, she resumes talking to God…to thank him for that telltale sign of womanhood.

Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1970

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1397-8

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1970

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Readers will be excited to see where Omar’s imagination will take him next.


From the Planet Omar series , Vol. 1

Omar, a British Pakistani boy, and his family have just moved to a new home in London, where he will be starting at a new school.

Omar worries about a lot of things, especially “walking into a brand-new classroom with everyone watching and a teacher who might or might not be an alien zombie.” He has a little brother and an older sister, and his mom and dad are both scientists. (Published in the U.K. in 2019, the text has been Americanized for the U.S. edition.) Omar has a huge imagination that helps him get through difficult situations, envisioning, for instance, “a better way to get to school…on a SUPER-Awesome, Magnificent DRAGON.” Mafaridik creatively embellishes the text with sketches and a variety of display types. At his new school, Omar makes friends with Charlie but also meets Daniel, a bully. (Both boys present white.) Omar does not tell his mom because he does not want her to worry, instead using humor and creativity to escape Daniel’s cruelty. Mian seamlessly weaves Islamic values and teachings through Omar’s chatty narration. At prayer in the mosque, “we went into Rukhu. That’s when your hands are on your knees.…Then we went into Sujood.” These descriptions and definitions are consistent and brief throughout, moving with the flow of the story. While the story’s tone is light, anti-Muslim sentiment is acknowledged and integrated into the narrative.

Readers will be excited to see where Omar’s imagination will take him next. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-10921-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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