A fun and fast-moving adventure giddy with ideas.

CALEY CROSS AND THE HADEON DROP

This debut middle-grade fantasy sees a neglected orphan returning to the magical kingdom of her birth to face a rising evil.

Thirteen-year-old Caley Cross is the oldest child at the Gunch Home for Wayward Waifs, where she is worked like a slave and kept starved and impoverished. Caley gets on with her life as best she can, but if ever her anger is roused, she dies. Her deaths are only temporary—she revives shortly afterward—but they are linked to an innate power that causes dead animals to come alive. One day, Caley’s resurrections bring her to the attention of a metal-winged crow, whereupon she is rescued from the orphanage and taken to Erinath, a realm beyond Earth. Caley, it transpires, is the lost daughter of Queen Catherine, who disappeared shortly after the girl was born and is thought to have been killed by the nefarious Olpheist. Returned to Castle Erinath (which grows like a tree and often shifts its rooms about), Caley must adjust to her royal status—and to the relentless enmity of Ithica Blight, the vain and petty princess she’s supplanted as next in line to the throne. Ithica’s cruelties aside, there is trouble brewing in the kingdom. Castle Erinath is sickening and Olpheist is rumored to have broken free of his prison. Can Caley and her new friends sort truth from lies and keep him from laying hands on the Hadeon Drop, the ultimate source of creation and destruction? In this wildly imaginative series opener, Rosen’s storytelling overflows with creative fancy, so much so that the strong Harry Potter resonances (cruelly treated chosen one, boarding school social dynamic, Quidditch-like Equidium teams) become an unfortunate distraction from the boundless parade of whimsical characters and fantastical new material. Caley’s adventure begins in a breathless rush before settling down and building steadily to a somewhat abrupt end (and the promise of a sequel). The author’s prose is easy to read, with clear descriptions, age-appropriate dialogue, and plenty of humor. While Ithica is over-the-top and Caley and Olpheist are little distinguished from default heroes and villains, all the other characters ooze originality. All told, young readers will thrill at the sparkle of enchantment.

A fun and fast-moving adventure giddy with ideas.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68463-053-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A warm coming-of-age story populated with a cast of memorable characters.

NAKED MOLE RAT SAVES THE WORLD

Kit and Clem are best friends, and both are dealing with life-changing adversity.

Kit is tiny and afflicted with both alopecia universalis (a complete lack of hair that strangers interpret as a result of chemotherapy) and a dysfunctional mother who named her “kit”—not Kit—as a reminder to herself to “keep it together.” Clem, a member of her Latinx family’s acrobatic team, is badly injured during a televised performance. Once she’s recovered from the worst of her injuries, Clem endures her distress by taking on an angry goth identity that contrasts sharply with her previous image. Meanwhile, kit, who is white, copes with anxiety (mostly caused by her mother) by turning into a naked mole rat (the ugly animal her mother often compares her to) and scurrying for cover—or so she believes. The girls’ stories are presented in third-person chapters that seamlessly alternate, not only providing an intimate view of each character’s largely hidden despair, but also revealing their bemused, mostly concealed judgments of each other, as their coping mechanisms serve to drive them apart. A rich cast of secondary characters enhances the tale, including kit’s mom’s somewhat witchy helper and the young teens’ former friend, a kindly boy who has many problems of his own. An author’s note explores anxiety disorder.

A warm coming-of-age story populated with a cast of memorable characters. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61620-724-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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An uplifting sequel told with heart and humor.

MERCI SUÁREZ CAN'T DANCE

Merci returns for another year of challenges and triumphs at home and at Seaward Pines Academy.

Life is a little different for Merci Suárez in seventh grade. Her older brother, Roli, is off at college; her grandfather Lolo’s Alzheimer’s is more pronounced; and she has to regularly babysit her Tía Inés’ spirited young twins. Merci is also assigned to manage the school store with math whiz Wilson Bellevue, a quiet classmate who she realizes is not obnoxious like other boys. When Merci and Wilson are expected to sell tickets to the Valentine’s Day Heart Ball, she must interact with a slightly-less-mean Edna Santos, who’s running the dance and unexpectedly getting closer to Hannah, one of Merci’s best friends. Medina continues to tenderly explore issues such as multigenerational immigrant family dynamics, managing the responsibilities of home and school, and learning how to navigate changing friendships and first crushes. Merci’s maturity and growth are as engaging and compelling as they were in the author’s Newbery Medal winner, Merci Suárez Changes Gears (2018). The cast is broadly diverse; Merci and her family are Cuban American, Edna is Dominican, and Creole and Cajun Wilson has a physical disability.

An uplifting sequel told with heart and humor. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9050-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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A quick skim of the subject—readable, but unsystematic and not well served by either the art or the dusty closing...

GIFTS FROM THE GODS

Countering the notion that our language just sprang into existence from nowhere, a respected storyteller offers quick notes on the Classical backgrounds behind several dozen words or expressions in common use.

Arranging her 17 main choices alphabetically from “Achilles Heel” to “Victory,” Lunge-Larsen supplies for each a use-quote, retells or paraphrases a Greek or Roman myth that explains the term’s usage then closes with quick references to several related gods or other figures whose names are still embedded in English. While “Pandora’s Box” and some other entries feature fully developed tales, others do not. The story of Achilles (whose role and death in the Trojan War are encompassed in one sentence about how, after the “Battle of Troy [sic] broke out … one fateful arrow pierced his heel”) and others are sketchy at best. Adding occasional dialogue balloons graphic-novelist, Hinds presents expertly drawn but similarly sketchy watercolor scenes of fully-clothed or discreetly posed mortals and immortals on nearly every page. While pulling modern use-quotes from current literature for kids has the potential to spice up the presentation, some works are relatively obscure (River Boy, by Tim Bowler) or above the natural audience for this text (The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney).

A quick skim of the subject—readable, but unsystematic and not well served by either the art or the dusty closing bibliography. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-15229-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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