A high-stakes historical adventure full of emotional, social and political drama.

A LITTLE WICKED

Historical middle-grade fiction about a 12-year-old Scottish girl forced to flee her home and travel to the New World in the year 1692.

Debut novelist Macreery tells thestory of Dory MacDonald, a survivor of the massacre of Glencoe, an attack on three Scottish settlements ordered by the king of England in the late 1600s. The book begins as the MacDonald clan is ambushed by members of a rival clan in league with William of Orange, the British monarch. Dory, along with her parents and a small fraction of her clan, escapes the attack. As the group takes cover in the freezing woods of the Scottish Highlands, Dory’s mother falls ill and dies. Before Dory can even confront her grief, her father insists that she leave Scotland and travel to the New World, where she may take refuge with her mother’s sister in a place called Massachusetts. Although devastated by her apparent banishment, Dory comes to understand that since she is the granddaughter of her clan’s chief, she has a duty to survive. As war continues in Scotland, Dory must get to safety to preserve the history of her people. She thus begins a journey, first trekking across Scotland and then traveling the sea. As Macreery depicts the difficult voyage, she emphasizes Dory’s loneliness and fear while providing fascinating details about Scotland’s people, terrain and wildlife, as well as the hardships of ocean crossings in the 17th century. When Dory finally arrives in Massachusetts, the action continues as she finds herself in the midst of the famous Salem witch trials. Macreery’s well-researched story is chock-full of historical information seamlessly woven into Dory’s quest to extricate herself from one dangerous situation after another. In light of the death and devastation presented throughout the book, this story isn’t for the faint of heart. Regardless, the fast pace and suspense-filled pages will keep younger teens engrossed while providing notable history lessons.

A high-stakes historical adventure full of emotional, social and political drama.

Pub Date: April 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-1478733461

Page Count: 188

Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc.

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2014

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An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books.

BUSY BETTY

Actor and author Witherspoon makes her picture-book debut.

Betty, a light-skinned, bespectacled child with blond pigtails, was born busy. Constantly in motion, Betty builds big block towers, cartwheels around the house (underfoot, of course), and plays with the family’s “fantabulous” dog, Frank, who is stinky and dirty. That leads to a big, busy, bright idea that, predictably, caroms toward calamity yet drags along enough hilarity to be entertaining. With a little help from best friend Mae (light-skinned with dark hair), the catastrophe turns into a lucrative dog-washing business. Busy Betty is once again ready to rush off to the next big thing. Yan uses vivid, pastel colors for a spread of a group of diverse kids bringing their dogs to be washed, helping out, and having fun, while the grown-ups are muted and relegated to the background. Extreme angles in several of the illustrations effectively convey a sense of perpetual motion and heighten the story’s tension, drawing readers in. An especially effective, glitter-strewn spread portrays Frank looming large and seemingly running off the page while Betty looks on, stricken at the ensuing mess. Though it’s a familiar and easily resolved story, Witherspoon’s rollicking text never holds back, replete with amusing phrases such as “sweet cinnamon biscuits,” “bouncing biscuits,” and “busted biscuits.” As Betty says, “Being busy is a great way to be.” Young readers are sure to agree. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-46588-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

MAYBE

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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