Following the lead of its six preceding episodes this one may be sprawling, untidy and, particularly in its treatment of...



From the Harry Potter series , Vol. 7

The epic adventure ends where, and as, it should in this long-awaited heart- (and, predictably, door-) stopping closer. With the entire tale now laid out, it easier to see the themes and qualities that not only bind it into one coherent, humongous saga, but have also so strongly bound millions of readers to its decade-long unfolding.

Many of those themes—the Hero’s Journey, the wonder of magic-working, the cluelessness of grown-ups, the sweet confusion of adolescence—are standard fare in stories for young readers (or readers who remember being young), but Rowling has shown uncommon skill in playing them with and against each other, and also woven them into a darn good bildungsroman, populated by memorable characters and infused with a saving, irrepressible sense of fun. In The Deathly Hallows, she opens with a vintage, riveting escape scene, then sends Harry, Ron and Hermione into a months-long flight from the ascendant and hotly pursuing forces of Lord Voldemort—this journey also becomes a desperate search for the remaining horcruxes that make him unkillable. Allies both known and unexpected gather to help, but it is strength of spirit and character that, particularly in Harry’s case, blossom here after developing throughout the series, carrying these “three teenagers in a tent whose only achievement was not, yet, to be dead,” past hopelessness, sharp divisions and other challenges to a decisive faceoff against a seemingly unconquerable adversary. There is a slow stretch toward the middle as the trio, having passed through a succession of refuges, hides out in the wilderness for some soul searching, but Rowling kicks up the pace in the second half. Strewing the plot with dueling spells, narrow squeaks and multiple corpses, lightening the load with well-placed humor and casting a sharp light on the flaws and graces of her characters, she builds to a suitably huge, compelling and, like illustrator Mary GrandPré’s chapter-head vignettes, stylish climactic battle on the grounds of Hogwarts.

Following the lead of its six preceding episodes this one may be sprawling, untidy and, particularly in its treatment of race and class issues, sometimes disturbingly simplistic—but, taken as a whole, it gives the author’s brilliantly imagined fantasy the grand finish it merits. And along with her recent suggestion that she may, someday, produce a sort of  “Hogmarillion” to tie up all the loose ends, a provocatively sketchy epilogue (presumably a version of that Final Chapter that she claims to have written at the very beginning) here hints that she may not be ready to let go of her creations, just yet.

Pub Date: July 21, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-545-01022-1

Page Count: 759

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

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This promising debut is set in a dying underground city. Ember, which was founded and stocked with supplies centuries ago by “The Builders,” is now desperately short of food, clothes, and electricity to keep the town illuminated. Lina and Doon find long-hidden, undecipherable instructions that send them on a perilous mission to find what they believe must exist: an exit door from their disintegrating town. In the process, they uncover secret governmental corruption and a route to the world above. Well-paced, this contains a satisfying mystery, a breathtaking escape over rooftops in darkness, a harrowing journey into the unknown and cryptic messages for readers to decipher. The setting is well-realized with the constraints of life in the city intriguingly detailed. The likable protagonists are not only courageous but also believably flawed by human pride, their weaknesses often complementing each other in interesting ways. The cliffhanger ending will leave readers clamoring for the next installment. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: May 27, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-82273-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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