Easily meets the series’ high standards.

FIRST PRIZE FOR THE WORST WITCH

From the Worst Witch series , Vol. 8

At the end of Year Four at Miss Cackle’s Academy, prizes are awarded—will Mildred and her friends win anything?

Heading into Summer Term, Mildred has high hopes: She secretly hopes to be chosen as next year’s head girl. But it’s unlikely because, as pal Maud points out, “if there’s a Hallow in the school, it always goes to them, and we’ve got Ethel Hallow.” Meanwhile, villainous Ethel wants to make sure she also claims the best-flying prize and finds a way to attack the key ingredient to Mildred’s flying success: Mildred’s dog, Star, who became Mildred’s broom companion in The Worst Witch and the Wishing Star (2013). Learning that Star is a missing circus dog, Ethel brings this to the authorities’ attention, and Mildred tearfully surrenders Star. When Mildred and friends visit the circus to make sure Star’s happy, they learn that, though none of the circus animals are mistreated, they are not happy, either. The girls engineer a swap of magical tools for the animals. The nostalgia-inducing art and classic British children’s story feel mesh exceptionally well with the circus storyline’s subtle messaging about alternatives to animals in circuses—and it’s done so without casting the circus owners as villains and without judging circus fans. Even bully Ethel and her henchgirl, Drusilla, receive occasional flashes of sympathy—but not so much as to take away from Mildred’s triumph over them! In illustrations, the characters are depicted as white.

Easily meets the series’ high standards. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1101-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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