Good fun for youngsters who prefer their holiday cheer with a dark twist.

KRAMPUS CONFIDENTIAL

From the Hazy Fables series , Vol. 3

When they open a detective agency in Tinseltown, Ruprecht and his ghost friend, Marley, become entangled in a deception contrived by a small elf with big bias.

In this third installment of the Hazy Fables series, it appears that a krampus is jollifying elves, that is, overloading them on holiday spirit to the point of coma by showing them a snow globe reported to be the first toy Santa ever made. The bad news is that the police suspect young Ruprecht, who is a krampus, or goat/human hybrid from Germanic mythology, of being the perpetrator. Red herrings abound as Ruprecht and Marley race against the police, a goblin, and a bad witch to find the snow globe and the villain who is wielding it. It seems that society expects the worst of krampuses, and Ruprecht has already suffered from others’ negative expectations, a circumstance that allows readers an opportunity to understand prejudice. But Tinseltown is packed with the usual (and unusual) suspects of Christmas lore, and the culprit could be anyone. Ruprecht narrates the mystery in a noir style that is both world-weary and tongue-in-cheek. The good news is that Ruprecht, unlike most noir protagonists, accepts help, especially from his parents, who are revealed to be legendary Christmas figures in their own rights. This charming work draws to a satisfactory close with justice restored.

Good fun for youngsters who prefer their holiday cheer with a dark twist. (Fantasy/mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-948931-26-7

Page Count: 242

Publisher: Hazy Dell Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark.

NARWHAL I'M AROUND

From the Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter series , Vol. 2

An animal ghost seeks closure after enduring aquatic atrocities.

In this sequel to The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter (2020), sixth grader Rex is determined to once again use his ability to communicate with dead animals for the greater good. A ghost narwhal’s visit gives Rex his next opportunity in the form of the clue “bad water.” Rex enlists Darvish—his Pakistani American human best friend—and Drumstick—his “faithful (dead) chicken”—to help crack the case. But the mystery is only one of Rex’s many roadblocks. For starters, Sami Mulpepper hugged him at a dance, and now she’s his “accidental girlfriend.” Even worse, Darvish develops one of what Rex calls “Game Preoccupation Disorders” over role-playing game Monsters & Mayhem that may well threaten the pair’s friendship. Will Rex become “a Sherlock without a Watson,” or can the two make amends in time to solve the mystery? This second outing effectively carries the “ghost-mist” torch from its predecessor without feeling too much like a formulaic carbon copy. Spouting terms like plausible deniability and in flagrante delicto, Rex makes for a hilariously bombastic (if unlikable) first-person narrator. The over-the-top style is contagious, and black-and-white illustrations throughout add cartoony punchlines to various scenes. Unfortunately, scenes in which humor comes at the expense of those with less status are downright cringeworthy, as when Rex, who reads as White, riffs on the impossibility of his ever pronouncing Darvish’s surname or he plays dumb by staring into space and drooling.

Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark. (Paranormal mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5523-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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