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CYBELE’S SECRET

Bewitching despite flaws, this companion to Wildwood Dancing (2007) picks up six years later. Younger sister Paula, who debated philosophy in the Other Kingdom while her sisters danced, now assists Father on a trade journey to Istanbul. They seek Cybele’s Gift, an ancient pagan artifact so threatening to the Muslim political powers that all inquiries must be covert. Personal guard Stoyan sleeps protectively across their doorway and escorts Paula to the lone library open to female scholars in this restrictive city. A shock at the artifact’s unveiling leads Paula, Stoyan and condescendingly flirtatious pirate Duarte on a journey underneath a mountain, fulfilling quest tasks set by the Other Kingdom. Such challenges supposedly give mortals “wiser hearts,” but these riddles and tests have tepid answers. The story takes too long to find momentum, and Marillier troublingly casts both feminism and Islam in a bad light, heavily exoticizing Istanbul. However, despite these weaknesses, genuine emotion and Paula’s alluring love story create a memorable page-turner. (Romanian glossary, not seen) (Fantasy. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-375-83365-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point.

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin.

The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyne’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice.

Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2014

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