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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Uneven pacing and clunky writing undermine this examination of trauma and PTSD.

IF WE WERE GIANTS

Matthews, of the Dave Matthews Band, and co-author Smith offer a fantasy that explores the damage done by violence inflicted by one people against another.

Ten-year-old Kirra lives in an idyllic community hidden for generations inside a dormant volcano. When she and her little brother make unwise choices that help bring the violent, spindly, gray-skinned Takers to her community—with devastating results—Kirra feels responsible and leaves the volcano. Four years later, Kirra’s been adopted into a family of Tree Folk that live in the forest canopy. Though there are many Tree Folk, individual families care for their own and are politely distant from others. Kirra, suffering from (unnamed) PTSD, evades her traumatic memories by avoiding what she calls “Memory Traps,” but when the Takers arrive in the forest, she must face her trauma and attempt to make a community of the Tree Folk if they’re to survive. Although Kirra’s struggles through trauma are presented with sympathy and realistically rendered, some characters’ choices are so patently foolish they baldly read like the plot devices they are. Additionally, much preparation goes into one line of defense while other obvious factors are completely ignored, further pushing the story’s credibility. Kirra is brown skinned, as is her first family; Tree Folk appear not to be racially homogenous; and the Takers are all gray skinned.

Uneven pacing and clunky writing undermine this examination of trauma and PTSD. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-7871-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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THE BFG

Dahl's elemental fix on kids' consciousness gets this off to a surefire shivery start, with orphan Sophie, awake st the witching hour, snatched from her bed by a giant hand and carried off to a land of giants clear off the last page of the atlas. But Sophie's kidnapper is really friendly (hence BFG for Big Friendly Giant) and does not eat humans as she had feared, but occupies himself gathering and dispensing dreams. He also expresses himself in a mixed-up, cutesy manner that is simply tiresome. Nearby, however, are nine still-bigger giants who do eat humans ("I is a nice and jumbly giant" but "human beans is like strawbunkles and cream to those giants," says the BFG)—and it's to protect the world from them that Sophie and the BFG hatch a scheme: He will mix a dream from his collection and send it to the Queen of England to apprise her of the threat; then, when she awakens, Sophie will be on her windowsill, and the BFG waiting in the garden, to convince her that the dream is true. And so it is that we find Sophie and the BFG breakfasting with Her Majesty . . . and the BFG violating all decorum, even to letting fly a glumptious whizzpopper (kids would call it a fart). Nevertheless the Queen is impressed and sends off her military men, who, under the BFG's direction, rope the sleeping giants and haul them back by helicopter to be imprisoned in a giant pit. This is all told in Dahl's higgledy-piggledy home-made manner, which is rarely disarming here despite the pandering. And it's hard to find the bumble-tongued BFG endearing.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1982

ISBN: 0374304696

Page Count: 219

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1982

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