THE SILVER GATE

Wynn is a sweet-natured 11-year-old with physical and mental challenges that have caused her to be labeled a changeling and hidden away with her mother in a lonely hut far from the serfs’ village.

When Wynn’s mother dies, her father plans to sell the dark-haired white girl to the lord of the manor as a kitchen slave. Her older brother, Elric, loves her, but he is conflicted about his role as her protector, for he cannot always understand or meet her needs. He makes the difficult decision to take Wynn away and find her a safe home. Their journey through the medieval-ish landscape is fraught with danger from the elements and also from superstitious, often vicious inhabitants (most evidently white and with Saxon names). Even in the darkest moments Wynn sees magical omens linked to a mysterious song she learned from her mother, and she truly believes that they will find the titular silver gate, leading to the world of the dark-brown–skinned Fairy Queen. When Elric finally allows himself to believe as she does, they find more than safety. As conveyed in a third-person narration that occasionally shifts perspective from Elric to Wynn, the adventure is exciting, and the denouement is touching. Bailey explains Wynn’s very real genetic syndrome at the beginning rather than at the end of the work, perhaps indicating a lack of trust that readers will love Wynn and understand that she is wise and capable.

Tender and magical. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-239857-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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