ANY WHICH WALL

Susan, Henry, Roy and Emma stumble upon a wall in the oddest of places—the middle of a cornfield. To their delight, it turns out to be wishing wall, complete with a key, capable of whisking them away to fascinating times and places. It’s not all fun and games, though, at least not at first. The kids have to puzzle out how the magic works and then contend with some mysterious visions granted to them by none other than the famous Merlin. The visions, along with the particular wishes each child makes, unfold into a unique life lesson for each of the children. Unfortunately, these lessons can feel a little contrived, particularly when it comes to Susan, the oldest of the group, who is desperately trying to grow up without losing the childlike qualities of imagination and adventure that are a fundamental part of her spirit. Nonetheless, the fast-paced plot and glib narrator—fond of making asides—will keep readers turning pages and looking for magic in their own corners of the world. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 26, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-375-85560-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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A complex, hopeful, fresh retelling.

A WISH IN THE DARK

A fugitive from prison must evade his pursuer, the prison warden’s daughter, while potentially joining a revolution.

Pong has lived his whole life in Namwon Prison until a chance escape leaves him free in the city of Chattana. Pong quickly finds that freedom does not come so easily: Since the Great Fire, Chattana is under the strict control of the Governor, who creates the magical lights that run the city and that are the only lights allowed. Marked as a prisoner, Pong has nowhere to turn. Worse, the prison warden’s daughter Nok is on his trail, intent on proving both her worth and that of her family with his capture. Meanwhile, larger forces in Chattana are stirring, as not everyone is happy with the Governor’s rule. Set in a fantasy analogue of Thailand, all characters are presumed Thai, and Thai life and culture permeate the story in everything from the mangoes Pong eats in prison to the monks he meets beyond the prison’s walls. It’s also a retelling of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, and Soontornvat has maintained the themes of the original while making the plot and the characters utterly her own. Pong’s and Nok’s narratives are drawn together by common threads of family, loyalty, and a quest to define right and wrong, twining to create a single, satisfying tale.

A complex, hopeful, fresh retelling. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0494-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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