Well-plotted, intelligent hilarity.


From the Chronicles of Kazam series , Vol. 3

Jennifer Strange’s latest adventure isn’t a quest, but that’s only because quests require approval from the Questing Federation.

Everyone needs Jennifer’s help: Once Magnificent Boo has been arrested in the Cambrian Empire and needs the wizard agency Kazam to pay her ransom; Queen Mimosa needs Jennifer to educate (reform) the spoiled crown princess; and even the Mighty Shandar has an errand for Jennifer. Since Jennifer thwarted Shandar’s plan to render the dragons extinct (The Last Dragonslayer, 2012), he technically owes his clients a refund—and Shandar doesn’t do refunds. Either he will exterminate the dragons (and Kazam with them, as Kazam will try to protect them), or Jennifer must retrieve a powerful mystical item for him, the Eye of Zoltar. Rumor puts the Eye of Zoltar in the Cambrian Empire, so Jennifer can educate the princess, save Boo and retrieve the Eye in one trip. The Cambrian economy depends on “jeopardy tourism,” but their destination is so dangerous that even the risk tours don’t list it. Luckily, they secure the services of an ace guide and are on their way through various puns and perils. The princess’s naturally paced development entertains, especially her passion for economics (never before have options and the stock market been so much fun). The Cambrian wackiness eventually ties together in a cohesive conspiracy, and the ending cliffhanger will agonize fans—but in a good way.

Well-plotted, intelligent hilarity. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-547-73849-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored by the universe.


If Anne Frank had been a boy, this is the story her male counterpart might have told. At least, the very beginning of this historical novel reads as such.

It is 1939, and Yanek Gruener is a 10-year old Jew in Kraków when the Nazis invade Poland. His family is forced to live with multiple other families in a tiny apartment as his beloved neighborhood of Podgórze changes from haven to ghetto in a matter of weeks. Readers will be quickly drawn into this first-person account of dwindling freedoms, daily humiliations and heart-wrenching separations from loved ones. Yet as the story darkens, it begs the age-old question of when and how to introduce children to the extremes of human brutality. Based on the true story of the life of Jack Gruener, who remarkably survived not just one, but 10 different concentration camps, this is an extraordinary, memorable and hopeful saga told in unflinching prose. While Gratz’s words and early images are geared for young people, and are less gory than some accounts, Yanek’s later experiences bear a closer resemblance to Elie Wiesel’s Night than more middle-grade offerings, such as Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars. It may well support classroom work with adult review first.

A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored by the universe. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-45901-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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