An avid reader becomes a “plucky heroine” in real life.
When the iceberg her village is built on begins to melt, it’s up to sixth-grader Penelope March to rescue the magic shard that keeps Glacier Cove afloat. In chain-saw–wielding neighbor Ore9n Buzzardstock’s creepy mansion, an ice-sculpture submarine comes to life to carry Penelope, her little brother, Miles, and a well-trained army of penguins to the volcanic lair of shape-shifting Makara Nyx, a giant sea monster who’s stolen the shard in her never-ending quest to destroy all life and return the sea to its “natural order.” First-time novelist Ruby has stuffed his adventure with delicious details: runny-nosed children wake up with “boogersicles,” and popping ice bubbles make a “Bergie Seltzer” (a true phenomenon). But the result is a freezer full of tasty worldbuilding and not enough nutritious plot or character development. Buzzardstock’s “dream cookies” allow the children to swim in crushing ocean depths and walk through fire. The human characters have “pasty” white skin. Like fantasy writers before him, the author pits the light against the dark, but he fails to provide a convincing climax. “Then, a strange thing happened,” he says limply, leaving room for a sequel.
Like the turnips that serve as daily bread in Glacier Cove, this is hard to swallow. (Fantasy. 9-12)