A dizzying array of magical tales, sure to keep young readers transfixed.

The Mythomaniacs

In Bass’ (Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon, 2007, etc.) YA story, a teenager switches bodies with the legendary wizard Merlin.

Fifteen-year-old Gilbert Myrddin, of Topsham, England, is an illustrator of fairy tales written by his father, Henry. They bind and sell the tales at Ye Olde Book & Toy Shoppe, which Henry owns. One day, his father brews a strange concoction from an ancient book titled Myrddin; Gilbert pours it down the drain, but gags on the fumes. Overnight, he becomes wrinkly and grows a long white beard. Henry rushes his son to the hospital, where Gilbert is contacted through a television by none other than the younger version of himself—or so it seems. The boy in the television explains that he’s Merlin, and that Gilbert is his ancestor. “You must follow the gleam,” the wizard says, which is defined as “the ability to see things that are invisible to the average person.”This kicks off a series of magical adventures starring Gilbert, his sister, Marlo, their friend Paul and an increasingly colorful cast of mythical and literary figures. Henry continues penning fairy tales, but with Merlin’s magic contorting their lives, he can’t be sure that he’s fully in control of his writing. Also, a troublesome figure with yellow eyes keeps appearing; can a confrontation inside Henry’s fictional worlds be far behind? Author Bass writes with an energetic, boundless sense of play, mixing the myths of Camelot with those of Santa Claus and King Midas. A body-switching potion has ingredients such as “nuance of newt wing, a suspicion of whistledown...and a dose of vermillion plonk oil,” which will be especially catchy to younger ears. The main narrative is full of Henry’s micro-stories, including “The Magic Touch” and “Evil Fishmaster & the Mermaid,” that give the work the feeling of a classic children’s reader. But Bass’ imagination may be too rambunctious for a single volume; at one point, for example, Marlo’s career as a mime elbows Gilbert’s plight aside. Bass has no shortage of ideas, but perhaps he should have given them more breathing room, across several books.

A dizzying array of magical tales, sure to keep young readers transfixed.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2014

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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A witty addition to the long-running series.

THE DEEP END

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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