For settings where the Phoebe and Her Unicorn series has ravenous fans.


From the Pacey Packer, Unicorn Tracker series , Vol. 1

A girl goes on an unexpected journey to save her little sister in this series opener.

Pacey Packer daydreams of being the “brave and powerful” Lady Pacey, vanquishing foes and “bringing peace and justice to the world all by herself.” Tasked with babysitting her younger sister, Mina, adventure-loving Pacey refuses to play tea party with Mina and her plush unicorn. But when she tries to relent, Pacey walks in on Mina being ferried out the window by a real live unicorn! Equally shockingly, Mina’s unicorn toy is actually Slasher, a real unicorn who has been transfigured into the body of a plushie and can talk. Pacey follows them, but just as they arrive in the unicorn land of Rundalyn, Pacey and Slasher are separated from Mina. With snarky Slasher as her guide, Pacey uses her sense of adventure to brave carnivorous plants, oversized fauna, and other dangers to reach Mina. When Slasher and Pacey arrive at the Alpha unicorn’s castle, a Mr. Tumnus–esque betrayal by Slasher reveals the cruel, haughty Alpha’s plan to turn Pacey and her sister into stone statues. It’s up to Pacey and her sister to save themselves, combining their styles of imaginative play. Two-color illustrations (a dull grape purple with black and white) lack the magic and energy that the story really needs, flattening the already two-dimensional style and lacking a clear intentionality. Pacey and Mina both have pale skin and straight, black hair.

For settings where the Phoebe and Her Unicorn series has ravenous fans. (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-5054-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale.


From the Heartwood Hotel series , Vol. 1

An orphan mouse unexpectedly arrives at Heartwood Hotel, which she hopes will become the home she’s seeking.

Mona’s never had a home for long. After a storm forces her to flee her latest forest shelter, she discovers an enormous tree with a heart carved into its trunk. When Mona presses the heart, a door opens, and she enters the lobby of Heartwood Hotel, where small forest critters hibernate, eat, and celebrate in safety. The kindhearted badger proprietor, Mr. Heartwood, takes pity on homeless Mona, allowing her to stay for the fall to assist the maid, Tilly, a red squirrel. Grateful to be at Heartwood, Mona strives to prove herself despite Tilly’s unfriendly attitude. Mona’s clever approaches with a wounded songbird, an anxious skunk, and a wayward bear win Mr. Heartwood’s approval. But when Mona accidentally breaks a rule, Tilly convinces her she will be fired. As Mona secretly leaves Heartwood, she discovers marauding wolves planning to crash Heartwood’s Snow Festival and devises a daring plan to save the place she regards as home. Charming anthropomorphic characters, humorous mishaps, and outside threats add to the drama. Delicate pencil illustrations reinforce Heartwood’s cozy home theme. A sequel, The Greatest Gift, publishes simultaneously.

A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale. (Animal fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-3161-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.


Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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