A few missed notes don’t prevent this novel from delivering a satisfying story even if the tune is familiar.

THE MYSTWICK SCHOOL OF MUSICRAFT

A toe-tapping fantasy novel mixes music and mystery.

Aficionados of middle-grade fantasy may find the premise recognizable: A parentless 12-year-old with unusual magical gifts is summoned to attend an elite boarding school in order to hone their craft. What makes this, YA author Khoury’s middle-grade debut, stand out is the focus on a special type of magic involving spells cast by playing musical instruments. After narrowly being accepted into Mystwick to study Musicraft with the most talented musicians in the world, Amelia Jones must prove that she has what it takes to perform musical spells and secure her spot at the school—or risk expulsion. Amelia struggles with difficult classes, mountains of homework, plus a roommate who hates her, and she quickly learns that someone—or something—seems to have it out for her. Staying at Mystwick will be more difficult than she ever imagined. Amelia’s only hope is the music she knows she is capable of creating, but she must find the courage and confidence to play it. Frenna’s lightly cartoony grayscale illustrations bring some of the pivotal scenes to life. Sparse physical descriptions paired with student names from a variety of cultures seem like a missed opportunity to describe ethnic and racial diversity explicitly; Amelia is white. Victoria, a guitarist who uses a wheelchair, is a featured secondary character.

A few missed notes don’t prevent this novel from delivering a satisfying story even if the tune is familiar. (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-62563-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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This engaging, heartwarming story does everything one can ask of a book, and then some.

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WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED

A Somali boy living in a refugee camp in Kenya tries to make a future for himself and his brother in this near memoir interpreted as a graphic novel by collaborator Jamieson.

Omar Mohamed lives in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya with his younger brother, Hassan, who has a seizure disorder, and Fatuma, an elderly woman assigned to foster them in their parents’ absence. The boys’ father was killed in Somalia’s civil war, prompting them to flee on foot when they were separated from their mother. They desperately hope she is still alive and looking for them, as they are for her. The book covers six years, during which Omar struggles with decisions about attending school and how much hope to have about opportunities to resettle in a new land, like the United States. Through Omar’s journey, and those of his friends and family members, readers get a close, powerful view of the trauma and uncertainty that attend life as a refugee as well as the faith, love, and support from unexpected quarters that get people through it. Jamieson’s characteristically endearing art, warmly colored by Geddy, perfectly complements Omar’s story, conjuring memorable and sympathetic characters who will stay with readers long after they close the book. Photographs of the brothers and an afterword provide historical context; Mohamed and Jamieson each contribute an author’s note.

This engaging, heartwarming story does everything one can ask of a book, and then some. (Graphic memoir. 9-13)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-55391-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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