High marks for ambition, middling for delivery.

A WOLF FOR A SPELL

The lives of a wolf, a witch, and an orphan are intertwined in this fantasy.

This story inspired by Russian fairy tales is told in alternating chapters by three characters: the witch Baba Yaga, a young female wolf named Zima, and an orphan girl named Nadya. Nadya, wandering in the forest near the orphanage, is determined to escape her life of drudgery, but she is torn between her need for freedom and her longing for a home. Meanwhile, Zima the wolf is also struggling with feelings of restlessness and insecurity. Her older sibling has told the pack to kill humans, but when Zima comes upon Nadya in the forest, she doesn’t kill her; and worse, Zima brings a younger wolf sibling, injured by a human, to the feared and hated witch, Baba Yaga, to be healed. Baba Yaga agrees on the condition that Zima switch bodies, through a spell, with her. Thus begins the enmeshing of the three main characters’ destinies. The plot’s many interesting twists are, however, undercut by a less-than-clear delivery. Italics rather than quotation marks are used to denote when animals are speaking (why?), which makes things confusing when Zima and Baba Yaga switch bodies and thus modes of speech; moreover, clunky contrivances jar the finer originality of the whole. The theme of the value of family and friends seems too thin and ordinary for such a complicated plot—something more revelatory is expected. The black-and-white illustrations, however, have a stark, effective beauty.

High marks for ambition, middling for delivery. (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12165-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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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 worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.

LEGACY AND THE DOUBLE

From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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