This intricate and compelling fantasy will pull readers in.

READ REVIEW

THE MAGPIE'S LIBRARY

The magpie is always there, mysterious and manipulating—and perhaps manipulated.

It is at Grandpa’s house and also at the hospital where he doesn’t recognize Silva. It is at the library where Silva goes to find solace. There, the magpie’s magic door leads her to an inner library holding amazing books. The first book is Margaret’s tale. The words move off the page and physically pull Silva into the book, where she becomes Margaret, hearing her thoughts. Thus begins layer upon layer of magic and secrets involving books in which the characters all have their own magic doors. Silva feels comfort and a sense of removal from the tensions and sadness in her modern England. But ultimately she is aware that it is a trap. Silva must fight for her soul and the health and safety of those she loves, for they too are in thrall to the magic. The action is fast paced and constant, but readers are always privy to Silva’s feelings. She narrates her part of the story, but the magpie—or is it Maghew?—narrates his backstory, shown in different typeface, always controlled by the Whisper, the evil force behind it all. Blair releases information about the characters and clues almost grudgingly, deftly hinting at possible patterns and interrelations, while completely surprising readers with the final denouement. The cast is default white.

This intricate and compelling fantasy will pull readers in. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77086-554-9

Page Count: 184

Publisher: DCB

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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