A fantasy tale featuring delightful characters that primes readers for an ongoing series.

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THE SLEEPING KING

In Colless’ middle-grade debut, a young boy may be a prophesied king who, according to legend, will save the world when it needs him most.

Peter Blue celebrates his 11th birthday at the Gum Tree Rest Home in Australia, where he’s spent the last five years. His parents, Byron and Thelma Blue, died in a bush fire, which he mysteriously survived. At the home, the boy finds his dad’s old Global Advanced Intelligence Agency jacket—a wearable, wi-fi–capable device. Inside a pocket is a card for “Spiral Hall / School for the Ecodemically Gifted.” The school is part of Peter’s quest, according to an old, bearded man named Tollen, who appears in his dreams. The boy reluctantly leaves his grandmother Nonna LaRosa at the home and travels to London, where he stays with his Aunty Surla (his mother’s sister) and Uncle Gorrman while attending school. Unfortunately, Peter must cope with bullies trying to steal his dad’s jacket, and Gorrman doesn’t want his nephew to attend Spiral Hall at all. Some there think that Peter may be the Sleeping King—the destined light during dark days to come. Meanwhile, frightening beings known as Anthrogs are actively searching for Peter, and they want to prevent him from foiling their upcoming “siege on the human race.” Colless’ tale is populated by richly colorful characters, such as former millionaire Devlin Dean, who’s staying at the rest home because the bank took his mansion and other belongings. The book is clearly a series launch, as the Anthrog Overlord and his Drones make only a couple of appearances, and there’s merely a hint of the Sleeping King’s potential power. However, readers will surely look forward to seeing more of these characters, including the other motley but endearing residents of the rest home or Pickles, a baby wallaby that Peter helps to rescue. The author expertly assembles scores of dialogue scenes involving multiple characters. The environmentalist message is also cleverly integrated: Peter’s rather unlikable aunt and uncle, for example, use plastic utensils and containers almost exclusively—and don’t recycle.

A fantasy tale featuring delightful characters that primes readers for an ongoing series.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5043-8865-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2017

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An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

BEHIND THE BLUE

A fan of magic and her reluctant companion embark on an adventure when the mysterious Blue Man charges them with a mission.

Little Katherine contemplates what exists behind the scrim of the sky, and she gets her answer after she meets a boy named Charlie, who literally runs into her upon fleeing a blue man and a talking salamander he encounters in the nearby forest. The man is non-threatening, and asks the two to help him recover some lost items, to which Katherine heartily agrees. He doesn’t provide much information, however, so once she and Charlie enter this enchanted universe, they must take it upon themselves to figure out what the Blue Man has lost and how to go about helping him find it. With the help of guides like snarky, enigmatic Gerald and good-natured Frank, the children travel through very deep puddles to different realms behind the clouds, learning about the Blue Man’s nemesis, Grey Lady, who may have snatched his magical dragon stones. Schilling’s well drawn, vibrant world elevates his story above the standard adventure quest. His lively, amusing dialogue complements a fantastical world where fish flit through the air like bees (and may accidentally transport you elsewhere), manta rays make shy cabbies, crushed flowers pop back to life and magic permeates everything. While adults will find the narrative captivating, this book is tailor-made for storytime read-alouds.

An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

Pub Date: July 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-595-36189-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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A killer thriller.

THREE HOURS IN PARIS

Black takes time out from chronicling the neighborhood-themed exploits of half-French detective Aimée Leduc to introduce a heroine as American as apple pie.

Kate Rees never expected to see Paris again, especially not under these circumstances. Born and bred in rural Oregon, she earned a scholarship to the Sorbonne, where she met Dafydd, a handsome Welshman who stole her heart. The start of World War II finds the couple stationed in the Orkney Islands, where Kate impresses Alfred Stepney of the War Department with the rifle skills she developed helping her dad and five brothers protect the family’s cattle. After unimaginable tragedy strikes, Stepney recruits Kate for a mission that will allow her to channel her newly ignited rage against the Germans who’ve just invaded France. She’s parachuted into the countryside, where her fluent French should help her blend in. Landing in a field, she hops a milk train to Paris, where she plans to shoot Adolf Hitler as he stands on the steps of Sacre-Coeur. Instead, she kills his admiral and has to flee through the streets of Paris, struggling to hook up with the rescuers who are supposed to extract her. Meanwhile, Gunter Hoffman, a career policeman in a wartime assignment with the Reichssicherheitsdienst security forces, is charged with finding the assassin who dared attempt to kill the Führer. It’s hard to see how it can end well for both the cop and the cowgirl. The heroine’s flight is too episodic to capitalize on Black’s skill at character development, but she’s great at raising readers’ blood pressure.

A killer thriller.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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AFTER HAMELIN

An expansion of the classic story of the pied piper, this tells of young Penelope, left behind when the piper returns for the children of Hamelin after saving the town from rats. On her 11th birthday, she must enter the world of dreams, accompanied by an eclectic assortment of companions—a talking cat, a jump-roping dragon, a blind harpist—and eventually face the piper himself in a battle of power, greed, and music. Narrated by a 101-year-old Penelope, the story bounces between recollections of the adventure, ruminations on her life, and meeting another Penelope, who is approaching her 11th birthday. By trying to incorporate too many subplots, Richardson fails to explain some of the more central points of the main story. He also introduces and dismisses concepts and props with no consistency. Penelope brings a jump rope with her, but it is rarely mentioned until she has use for it. The only way for Penelope to resist the piper’s enchanted music is to not hear it; she suddenly becomes deaf on her 11th birthday, an occurrence left unexplained. Nor does the reader ever find out why she conveniently regains her hearing upon entering the dreamland. Contrived and disjointed, this is an original interpretation that lacks development. Likely to attract lovers of fairy-tales, but it will disappoint. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-55037-629-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Firefly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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