THE MAGNIFICENT MONSTERS OF CEDAR STREET

Cordelia Clay helps her father, Cornelius, rescue injured and endangered monsters, restoring them to health in the ramshackle family mansion; when her father and the monsters disappear, she sets out to find them.

Gregory, a homeless orphan whose sick zombie puppy—a zuppy—she cured, insists on joining Cordelia’s dangerous quest. The baby dragon with a broken wing and the elderly filch found hidden in the oven can’t be left behind, either, as those aware that monsters do exist advocate exterminating them. Traveling by foot, rail, hot air balloon, and—after Cordelia resolves a pixie infestation—sailing ship, the children flee across Boston, seek out a Manhattan circus featuring monsters, and visit a Nova Scotia university, encountering anxious monsters posing as humans along the way. In this grimy, Dickensian world, an alternate-history Gilded Age, vast wealth coexists with grinding poverty and fear of the other runs deep: Where fear rules, difference is the enemy. Cordelia’s mother, author of a definitive natural history of monsters, held more benign views, convinced that the two evolutionary branches, Animalia (ours) and Prodigia (monsters), were relatives sharing a common origin, but died before proving her theory. While resourceful Cordelia and stalwart Gregory are good company, the monsters are standouts, manifesting, like all animals, unique natural attributes and proclivities (described in a comprehensive guide). Charming or alarming, these creatures and their world, rendered in abundant, imaginative detail, beg for further exploration. (Human characters seem to be White in Aldridge’s woodcutlike illustrations.)

Enchanting. (Fantasy. 8-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-234507-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one.

THE WILD ROBOT ESCAPES

Roz, a robot who learned to adapt to life among wild creatures in her first outing, seeks to return to the island she calls home.

Brown’s sequel to The Wild Robot (2016) continues an intriguing premise: What would happen to a robot after challenges in an unexpected environment cause it to evolve in unusual ways? As this book opens, Roz is delivered to a farm where she helps a widower with two young children run a dairy operation that has been in his family for generations. Roz reveals her backstory to the cows, who are supportive of the robot’s determination to return to the island and to her adopted son, the goose Brightbill. The cows, the children, and finally Brightbill himself come to Roz’s aid. The focus on Roz’s escape from human control results in a somewhat solemn and episodic narrative, with an extended journey and chase after Roz leaves the farm. Dr. Molovo, a literal deus ex machina, appears near the end of the story to provide a means of rescue. She is Roz’s designer/creator, and, intrigued by the robot’s adaptation and evolution but cognizant of the threat that those achievements might represent to humans, she assists Roz and Brightbill in their quest. The satisfactory (if inevitable-feeling) conclusion may prompt discussion about individual agency and determination, whether for robots or people.

If not as effervescent as Roz’s first outing, it is still a provocatively contemplative one. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38204-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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