Goose bump–inducing fun.

THE PHANTOM TOWER

Welcome to Brunhild Tower, a complicated fortress of an apartment building with a mysterious past.

Colm McShane, his twin brother, Mal (short for Malachy), and their widowed mother move to Chicago from Dallas for Mom’s new job at the University of Chicago. Brunhild Tower is unlike anything the 12-year-olds have seen before. Although “weird and old,” their new apartment, with a maid’s room, butler’s pantry, and two bathrooms, is bigger than their old house. There’s also a view of Lake Michigan. So why is the rent so low? What does Mom’s odd new boss mean when he says it’s “impossible to leave” Brunhild Tower? Their eccentric neighbor, Princess Veronica Margareta of Syldavia (a nod to Tin-Tin, perhaps?) issues an odd warning: Don’t wander the building between the hours of 1 and 2 in the afternoon. Does the elderly princess’s warning have anything to do with the button for the 13th floor—excluded from the elevator panel in accordance with superstition—which only appears for that one hour each day? Colm, who still grieves for his father, is more open to the unknown than his just-the-facts brother. Soon, good-natured narrator Colm, pedantic Mal, and their new friend and neighbor, bibliophile Tamika, find themselves on the phantom 13th floor, exploring what lies beyond the elevator doors. Colm, his brother, and their friend are believable middle graders, and the mystery unfolds into a solid adventure that offers just enough chills to keep the pages flipping. Colm and Mal are white, and Tamika is black.

Goose bump–inducing fun. (Fantasy. 8-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-52473-952-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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Next to the exhilarating renditions of Rosemary Sutcliff (The Wanderings of Odysseus, 1996) and Geraldine McCaughrean...

THE ODYSSEY

An anemic retelling of the epic is paired to crabbed, ugly illustrations.

Breaking for occasional glimpses back to Penelope’s plight in Ithaca, Cross relates Odysseus’ travels in a linear narrative that begins with his departure for Troy but skips quickly over the war’s events to get to the sack of the city of the Cicones and events following. Along with being careless about continuity (Odysseus’ men are “mad with thirst” on one page and a few pages later swilling wine that they had all the time, for instance), the reteller’s language is inconsistent in tone. It is sprinkled with the requisite Homeric references to the “wine-dark sea” and Dawn’s rosy fingers but also breaks occasionally into a modern-sounding idiom: “ ‘What’s going on?’ Athene said, looking around at the rowdy suitors.” Packer decorates nearly every spread with either lacy figures silhouetted in black or gold or coarsely brushed paintings depicting crouching, contorted humans, gods and monsters with, generally, chalky skin, snaggled teeth, beer bellies or other disfigurements. The overall effect is grim, mannered and remote.

Next to the exhilarating renditions of Rosemary Sutcliff (The Wanderings of Odysseus, 1996) and Geraldine McCaughrean (Odysseus, 2004), this version makes bland reading, and the contorted art is, at best a poor match. (afterword, maps) (Illustrated classic. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4791-9

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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