Fascinating but flawed.

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KAYTEK THE WIZARD

A boy growing up in 1930s Warsaw determines to become a wizard and succeeds—but at a price.

Korczak is memorialized as the Jewish pediatrician, progressive child psychologist and author who accompanied the children in his Warsaw ghetto orphanage to their deaths in a concentration camp. The Polish government declared 2012 the year of Janusz Korczak, marking the 70th anniversary of his death, and now his 1933 children’s book has been translated into English for the first time. The story is riveting, complex and thought-provoking. Young Kaytek, filled with the fairy tales his mother and grandmother tell him, wants to take control of his life and begins to study wizardry. His magic soon turns his streets, his school and all of Warsaw topsy-turvy and even draws the attention of the League of Nations. After an ocean voyage, a brief film career in Hollywood, imprisonment and transformation into a dog, Kaytek returns home a wiser, more responsible and more humane person. The translation is excellent, and notes are provided to help readers understand local customs and geography. Unfortunately, the book suffers from mid-20th-century European racism, particularly in its attitude toward Africa and Africans. Students of children’s literature will find the book and the afterword illuminating. Children will need to place it in historical perspective. Illustrated with full-page black-and-white art.

Fascinating but flawed. (translator’s afterword, references) (Historical fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-983868-50-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penlight Publications

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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THE LIGHTNING THIEF

From the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series , Vol. 1

Edgar Award–winning Riordan leaves the adult world of mystery to begin a fantasy series for younger readers. Twelve-year-old Percy (full name, Perseus) Jackson has attended six schools in six years. Officially diagnosed with ADHD, his lack of self-control gets him in trouble again and again. What if it isn’t his fault? What if all the outrageous incidents that get him kicked out of school are the result of his being a “half-blood,” the product of a relationship between a human and a Greek god? Could it be true that his math teacher Mrs. Dodds transformed into a shriveled hag with bat wings, a Fury, and was trying to kill him? Did he really vanquish her with a pen that turned into a sword? One need not be an expert in Greek mythology to enjoy Percy’s journey to retrieve Zeus’s master bolt from the Underworld, but those who are familiar with the deities and demi-gods will have many an ah-ha moment. Along the way, Percy and his cohort run into Medusa, Cerberus and Pan, among others. The sardonic tone of the narrator’s voice lends a refreshing air of realism to this riotously paced quest tale of heroism that questions the realities of our world, family, friendship and loyalty. (Fantasy. 12-15)

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7868-5629-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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The satisfyingly cataclysmic showdowns yield to peaceful resolution at last; here's hoping it holds this time.

THE BLOOD OF OLYMPUS

From the Heroes of Olympus series , Vol. 5

With just 12 days to go until Gaea awakens fully on Aug. 1 and brings an end to the world as we know it, two groups of demigods struggle to stop her.

Aboard the Argo II, Percy, Annabeth, Jason, Piper, Frank, Hazel and Leo race to Athens for the final showdown. Meanwhile, three formerly supporting characters struggle to haul the ancient and massive Athena Parthenos statue from Europe to Camp Half-Blood: son of Hades Nico di Angelo, daughter of Bellona Reyna Ramírez-Arellano (and former praetor at New Rome) and satyr Coach Hedge. Coach Hedge is there mostly for comic relief, but his anxiety for the welfare of his very pregnant wood-nymph wife at Camp Half-Blood, where rogue New Rome augur Octavian has massed his armies to attack on Aug. 1, is touchingly genuine. The story of the demigods headed to Athens focuses on Jason, Piper and Leo and offers what Riordan does best: comedic, action-packed encounters with deities most readers—and sometimes characters—have never heard of. Goddess of victory Nike is particularly funny as she rails against "namby-pamby ideas of friendship and everybody wins participation awards." The story's emotional heft mostly comes from Nico's and Reyna's arduous and heartfelt journeys to self-acceptance. Readers who haven't made a point of revisiting The House of Hades (2013) before starting this may find themselves wondering just why each group's mission is so important, but there's no questioning that the characters think they're vital. And ultimately, any prophecy-driven adventure is at bottom arbitrary anyway. The story's occasional ventures into romance are stilted and awkward, but fortunately they are brief.

The satisfyingly cataclysmic showdowns yield to peaceful resolution at last; here's hoping it holds this time. (Fantasy. 10-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-4673-5

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2014

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