Inventive and exciting, with strong hints of more to follow.

THE ARTIFACT HUNTERS

Potent, otherworldly, evil magic seeks domination, feeding on terror and upheaval in a time of war, while a Jewish refugee must find a way to counter it with some good magic of his own.

In 1942, Isaac’s parents send him from Nazi-occupied Prague to Rookskill Castle in Scotland, where he meets magical children and some strange creatures who are using their skills to help Britain win the war, first met in The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle (2016). On his journey he finds hints that his long-held feeling of being different is true. Amazingly, before arriving at Rookskill, he meets his parents in another century and is given two artifacts, an eternity knot and a time-travel watch, never to be relinquished, that will inform and guide him in the quest for reaching his as-yet-unknown destiny. He and the magically talented friends he meets at Rookskill also face unimaginable dangers as the evils close in on their castle, before all is resolved. Well, maybe not everything. The fantasy worldbuilding is generally well constructed and consistent. Gaelic largely inspires the evil creatures’ names, and Fox informs readers, though not Isaac, of their motivations in occasional interstitial chapters. Episodes are detailed and fast-paced, each one moving the tale forward, and there are lots of unexpected twists, turns, and revelations. Isaac and his magical teammates—all evidently white—are steadfast, brave, earnest, and altogether engaging.

Inventive and exciting, with strong hints of more to follow. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-451-47869-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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