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



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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet