THE BOY IN THE OAK

Physically slender but long on mystical atmosphere, Albarn’s debut features a mix of feathery line portraits and translucent leaves of pale, reworked photos of butterfly-wing and other natural patterns. They illustrate a short, formally told tale of Faerie retribution and redemption. In the first part, a bored, malicious lad tries to set fire to a Druidic Oak near his parents’ cottage and is embedded within the wood by angry sprites. Years later, when the Faeries try to do the same to a young girl whose parents plan to cut the tree down, the boy saves her and is released for showing compassion. The elevated language is nowhere near as polished as the pictures: “The boy awoke with a thud to his heart”; “He twisted with anxiety, wretched with his own memories and shameful of his past.” The special paper adds a misty, magical air to the page turns, however, and the insectile, sharp-tempered Faeries inject a needed thread of animation. Will tempt fans of the Spiderwick series and all things Faerie. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-897476-52-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simply Read

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2010

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A deft mix of chills and chuckles, not quite as sideways as Wayside School but in the same district.

A FRIENDLY TOWN THAT'S ALMOST ALWAYS BY THE OCEAN!

From the Secrets of Topsea series , Vol. 1

A fifth-grader struggles to fit in after he and his recently widowed mother move to a decidedly oddball new town.

As if the seemingly infinite pier, the lighthouse in the middle of town, and the beach teeming with enigmatic cats aren’t strange enough, Davy Jones discovers that his school locker has been relocated to the deep end of the swimming pool, his lunchtime fries are delivered by a “spudzooka,” and no one seems to be able to get his name right. On the other hand, his classmates welcome him, and in next to no time he’s breaking into an abandoned arcade to play pinball against a ghost, helping track down a pet pig gone missing on Gravity Maintenance Day, and like adventures that, often as not, take sinister swerves before edging back to the merely peculiar. Point-of-view duties pass freely from character to character, and chapters are punctuated with extracts from the Topsea School Gazette (“Today’s Seaweed Level: Medium-high and feisty”), bulletins on such topics as the safe handling of rubber ducks, and background notes on, for instance, the five local seasons, giving the narrative a pleasantly loose-jointed feel. Davy presents as white, but several other central cast members are specifically described as dark- or light-skinned and are so depicted in the frequent line drawings; one has two moms.

A deft mix of chills and chuckles, not quite as sideways as Wayside School but in the same district. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-00005-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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CRYSTAL CADETS

From the Crystal Cadets series , Vol. 1

On her birthday, a teenager learns that she is one of the Crystal Cadets, a textbook group of young, magic-wielding heroines charged with saving the world from vague, clichéd darkness.

This series opener introduces Zoe to the other Crystal Cadets: Jasmine, Olivia, Gwen, Liz, Milena, and a sixth, who is used as a plot twist. They ride fabulous creatures like winged horses and giant butterflies and use magical tools to fight off creepy people with black eyes. Zoe seems only momentarily fazed to find her parents evidently possessed before being whisked away. Glib dialogue makes the book feel trite and superficial. “Nonny, nonny boo boo. You can’t catch me!” sings a young cadet as she faces off against what looks like a toothed shadow. Attempts at puns create cringe-worthy moments: “Looks like the crystal's out of the bag!” The story was originally published as a digital comic series, and Toole’s writing offers mostly choppy transitions and is further hampered by poor worldbuilding, logic, and back story. In what feels like a halfhearted stab at grounding the story, Olivia explains, “The darkness has been around forever. It feeds on bad stuff, like fear and greed and bad manners.” If both story and illustrations remind readers of Sailor Moon, that is about par for the course. O’Neill’s depictions are fair and in the vein of manga comics, though at times they look depthless.

Skip and pass. (Graphic fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63140-431-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Roar Comics/Lion Forge

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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