An ideal read for middle-graders who like plenty of magic and adventure.

READ REVIEW

Circulus de Potentia

From the Magicae Mathematica series , Vol. 2

West (Libellus de Numeros, 2014) returns with another historical YA novel in his series about young Alex and her continuing adventures in a magical world.

This book picks up after the first volume left off and soon reintroduces Alex, the heroine of the first installment, and her friends, who take part in a celebration for Nosaj, one of many students of Archimedes who helped save the city from outside invaders. Later, a mysterious man comes to the local arena wearing a circlet inscribed with an equation featuring the symbol pi. This causes Archimedes to call upon Alex and her friends to go on a quest to find Pythagoras, perhaps the only man who understands what pi means, so the mystery man can be stopped before he fights all 100 Guardians, the city’s elite fighting force, and wreaks further havoc. Meanwhile, throughout the work, Diades and Demetrius, embittered former apprentices of Archimedes, plot to destroy what the city holds dear and to thwart Archimedes himself. Alex and her friends display courage, ingenuity, and maturity in the face of obstacles, and they know their math, just as they did in the first book of the series. In the end, Archimedes confronts the threat to the city (for now) in a manner that has just as much to do with Alex and her accomplishments as it does with the mystery of pi. She’s about to embark on yet another adventure as the book closes. West never forces mathematics or Latin on readers, but they both exist on the edges of the story. Readers will get comfortable pondering equations for determining volume and square roots, and they may pick up some Latin from the spells that Archimedes’ students use. There’s a looming sense in this book of an impending battle between good and evil, which lends every character’s actions a certain gravity. Overall, the novel is fast-paced and exciting and is a worthy follow-up to the first installment in the series.

An ideal read for middle-graders who like plenty of magic and adventure.

Pub Date: June 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5146-4168-2

Page Count: 232

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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ZATHURA

A trite, knock-off sequel to Jumanji (1981). The “Jumanji” box distracts Walter Budwing away from beating up on his little brother Danny, but it’s Danny who discovers the Zathura board inside—and in no time, Earth is far behind, a meteor has smashed through the roof, and a reptilian Zyborg pirate is crawling through the hole. Each throw of the dice brings an ominous new development, portrayed in grainy, penciled freeze frames featuring sculptured-looking figures in constricted, almost claustrophobic settings. The angles of view are, as always, wonderfully dramatic, but not only is much of the finer detail that contributed to Jumanji’s astonishing realism missing, the spectacular damage being done to the Budwings’ house as the game progresses is, by and large, only glimpsed around the picture edges. Naturally, having had his bacon repeatedly saved by his younger sibling’s quick thinking, once Walter falls through a black hole to a time preceding the game’s start, his attitude toward Danny undergoes a sudden, radical transformation. Van Allsburg’s imagination usually soars right along with his accomplished art—but here, both are just running in place. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-25396-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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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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