For fans of Fforde and the first installment.

THE SONG OF THE QUARKBEAST

From the Chronicles of Kazam series , Vol. 2

Fforde’s signature quirky humor and tongue-in-cheek social commentary persist in the second book of The Chronicles of Kazam trilogy (The Last Dragonslayer, 2012).

Foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, a business that finds practical uses for the Ununited Kingdom’s dwindling magic—delivering pizza by magic carpet, unclogging drains—while awaiting the return of real magic. Kazam’s competition, Industrial Magic, wants a monopoly on magic, with plans to use it for financial gain. A contest will decide the future of magic: Whichever company is faster in repairing Hereford’s medieval bridge will control all magic. The story is rife with magic spells, often humorously botched, and wonderfully imagined characters—including a new love interest for Jennifer. Fforde’s clever wordplay and social satire poke fun at everything from corporations and the monarchy to talentless boy bands and T-shirt slogans. But this impedes the episodic plot and raises the question of audience for the book, as many allusions and puns may elude American teens. Jennifer, likable in her lack of magical powers, seems older than her 16 years; her delivery of dialogue often sounds as though she is reading aloud. The storyline is less strong than that of the first book, making this seem a setup for the final installment. Indeed, the titular Quarkbeast barely makes an appearance.

For fans of Fforde and the first installment. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-73848-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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

PRISONER B-3087

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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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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