A look at an obscure but important part of United States history



In 1942, 14-year-old protagonist Kiska Baranoff’s island world turns upside down after Japan attacks Alaska.

For centuries Kiska’s people, the Aleuts, have lived according to their traditional ways on their island homes off the coast of Alaska. The men hunt seals, venturing into the ocean in baidarkas, or traditional kayaks. Kiska dreams of becoming a hunter herself, but tradition forbids the use of kayaks by women. Kiska knows women have other, important jobs to do: they gather sea gull eggs and clams, cut and dry salmon and other fish, and render seal oil. Not long after the Japanese attack, men in American Army uniforms land on Kiska’s island. They immediately round up all the villagers and force them into the belly of a ship to be taken to an undisclosed destination. Three hundred other Aleutians from many other islands in the archipelago are also forced onto the ship. It then travels 2,000 miles away and leaves them on Admiralty Island, an unfamiliar and stark environment. There they are housed in a decrepit building, an abandoned cannery that the Aleuts eventually improve. Soon after meeting an elder shaman, Agafon Krukoff, Kiska becomes his apprentice. Through his teachings, Kiska discover a way to help her people survive. Kiska narrates, describing the inhumane conditions, the soldiers’ racism, and terrible losses. The quiet tone of Smelcer’s text softens the cruelty the Aleutians suffer, and in the character of Kiska, he gives readers a strong, resourceful heroine.

A look at an obscure but important part of United States history . (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-935248-93-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Leapfrog

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.


In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles.


From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 4

The victory of Jacob and his fellow peculiars over the previous episode’s wights and hollowgasts turns out to be only one move in a larger game as Riggs (Tales of the Peculiar, 2016, etc.) shifts the scene to America.

Reading largely as a setup for a new (if not exactly original) story arc, the tale commences just after Jacob’s timely rescue from his decidedly hostile parents. Following aimless visits back to newly liberated Devil’s Acre and perfunctory normalling lessons for his magically talented friends, Jacob eventually sets out on a road trip to find and recruit Noor, a powerful but imperiled young peculiar of Asian Indian ancestry. Along the way he encounters a semilawless patchwork of peculiar gangs, syndicates, and isolated small communities—many at loggerheads, some in the midst of negotiating a tentative alliance with the Ymbryne Council, but all threatened by the shadowy Organization. The by-now-tangled skein of rivalries, romantic troubles, and family issues continues to ravel amid bursts of savage violence and low comedy (“I had never seen an invisible person throw up before,” Jacob writes, “and it was something I won’t soon forget”). A fresh set of found snapshots serves, as before, to add an eldritch atmosphere to each set of incidents. The cast defaults to white but includes several people of color with active roles.

Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles. (Horror/Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3214-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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