A masterfully weird adventure, likely to leave fantasy lovers in awe.

SANSABLATT HEAD

A teen unlocks the secrets of a mysterious wooden head in this whimsical YA fantasy.

At Boyle Middle School, seventh-grader Alec Mulroon lives to annoy his classmates and teachers. Hurling insults and fake vomit, he acts out for the attention he doesn’t get at home. His father is deceased, and his mother travels the world, concerned mainly with her tan. She does mail Alec presents, like bicycles and baseball mitts, that his caretakers, Wallace and Miranda Bairton, would have loved as children. Still, Alec resents his mother’s attempts to buy his affection. Then, incredibly, in the mail he receives a carved wooden head, which soon begins talking to Alec in private, calling itself Sansablatt and telling him fanciful bedtime tales about a place called Quelle. There, wizards known as Skylls fly through the air and summon anything they wish through Calling Doors; there are also Swarthy Giants and a feisty General in Chief named Eugenia McPherson McNutt. After hearing several tales about the magical realm—and one startling secret about Sansablatt’s origin—Alec is sure he’s destined to visit Quelle. But what awaits the teen if the fabulous stories actually come from his own restless mind? Author Spilman’s playful story will have readers racing for the answer. And even before the magic begins, fiendishly animated prose casts a spell: “Beneath the [head’s] glare he detected a gleam, beneath the gleam, a twinkle, and finally, finally, beneath that, what could only be described as a wink.” When Spilman fully unleashes her imagination, the result is often splendid chaos: The “belch, released from his stomach where it had been rolling and boiling all morning, now took on a life of its own.” But perhaps this novel’s most miraculous feat is the way it finds tenderness amid the cacophonies of silliness: “Alec already knew that Sansablatt was quarrelsome, impatient, and demanding. He also knew that he couldn’t live without him.” As the world within a world builds in complexity, readers will wonder if any canvas is large enough for Spilman’s imagination.

A masterfully weird adventure, likely to leave fantasy lovers in awe.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482668957

Page Count: 312

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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