THE BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO CURSES

From the Spellchasers series , Vol. 1

A rollicking introduction to a fantasy trilogy set in Scotland.

After a confrontation with a neighbor who disposes of his dog’s waste on the sidewalk, 11-year-old Molly Drummond finds herself victim of a curse that turns her into a hare when chased by dogs. What’s a girl to do? Enroll in a workshop for removing curses, of course. At Aggie Sharpe’s curse-lifting workshop, Molly meets other curse victims: Beth, a purple-haired dryad; blond Innes, a shape-shifting kelpie; Atacama, a sphinx; and a toad who vainly communicates with croaks no one understands. Each has his or her own reasons for wanting to be curse-free: Beth’s will eventually destroy all the trees in her forest; Innes’ kills water creatures when certain weather conditions are met; Atacama’s prevents him from being a “true” sphinx, for his riddle has been taken away; and the nonverbal toad’s is a mystery. Given very little instruction, Molly and her classmates realize that with a little teamwork and ingenuity, they can help break one another’s curses. From the first word, readers are dropped straight into the lively action, with nary a breather until the final page turn. A minor character is described as “dark-skinned”; the principals all appear to be white. Colloquialisms such as “howk the tatties” (dig potatoes), “a bit of a cheek” (impertinence), and “daft” (silly) and British-English spellings add realism (such as it is) and anchor the story to its Scottish countryside setting.

A real treat. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-78250-305-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Floris

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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Fans of the series will be delighted.

CLASH

From the Click series , Vol. 4

Can Olive stay positive when a social-climbing bully moves to town?

In her fourth adventure, sixth grader Olive Branche is on top of the world until new girl Natasha begins to encroach on her friendships, slowly and methodically freezing her out of her many different social circles. Relentlessly optimistic Olive tries to stay genial despite Nat’s overt jibes, but when Nat takes it to a new level and ruins Olive’s carefully planned Halloween party, Olive finally confronts her. When Nat finds herself consequently ostracized, empathetic Olive has a change of heart and extends her an olive branch (groan). Olive and Nat’s relationship is highly idealized, bordering almost on wish fulfillment; Nat’s backstory offers some explanation for her behavior, but she is accepted back into the fold more easily than may seem realistic. Olive’s appeal is in her unceasing Pollyanna-like sunniness and her ability to be accommodating and find the best in every situation. Though consistent in tone with its predecessors, in this entry Olive does have some moments of anger (albeit quickly reconciled); her portrayal here is the most human she’s been throughout the series. Although this is the fourth installment, each volume is mostly self-contained, making this equally accessible for established and new readers. Olive and Nat read as White; the supporting cast is inclusive and diverse.

Fans of the series will be delighted. (Halloween costume craft ideas, author Q&A) (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-24220-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Etch/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph.

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WISHTREE

Generations of human and animal families grow and change, seen from the point of view of the red oak Wishing Tree that shelters them all.

Most trees are introverts at heart. So says Red, who is over 200 years old and should know. Not to mention that they have complicated relationships with humans. But this tree also has perspective on its animal friends and people who live within its purview—not just witnessing, but ultimately telling the tales of young people coming to this country alone or with family. An Irish woman named Maeve is the first, and a young 10-year-old Muslim girl named Samar is the most recent. Red becomes the repository for generations of wishes; this includes both observing Samar’s longing wish and sporting the hurtful word that another young person carves into their bark as a protest to Samar’s family’s presence. (Red is monoecious, they explain, with both male and female flowers.) Newbery medalist Applegate succeeds at interweaving an immigrant story with an animated natural world and having it all make sense. As Red observes, animals compete for resources just as humans do, and nature is not always pretty or fair or kind. This swiftly moving yet contemplative read is great for early middle grade, reluctant or tentative readers, or precocious younger students.

A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-04322-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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