Black excellence, black fantastic, and black family combine for a transformational story of passion and persistence.

READ REVIEW

THE MAGIC IN CHANGING YOUR STARS

Ailey Benjamin Lane can dance outta this world and even drop a dope rhyme, but he struggles to perform his best under the spotlight.

Henderson’s characters have such powerful names, evoking a legacy of black excellence that dovetails triumphantly with this story of facing regrets and achieving redemption. (A list of these names is appended.) At the center, there’s Ailey Benjamin Lane, named for black dancer Alvin Ailey and astronomer/inventor Benjamin Banneker. Ailey is headed into stiff competition for the role of the Scarecrow in the school’s production of The Wiz. Ailey struggles through his first audition, and his stress is compounded when he arrives home to learn that his grandfather, who has shared with Ailey his love of the stars, is hospitalized. At the hospital, Grampa now shares a secret about a prized possession he’s held onto all these years: the tap shoes of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Ailey tries on the shoes and is transported to 1930s Harlem. There, he meets a young street tapper who looks an awful lot like Grampa and who is seeking to make a name for himself but must overcome his own doubt and anxiety. Through these magical shoes and this historic journey, there’s a way for Ailey to rewrite the story and “with every bit of heart and grit you have to seize…possibility.”

Black excellence, black fantastic, and black family combine for a transformational story of passion and persistence. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: today

ISBN: 978-1-4549-3406-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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With a first book this flat, it’s hard to envision a series.

WINGS OF OLYMPUS

A foundling and a winged horse compete in a race planned by the Greek gods.

Pippa, nearly 12, loses her job in an Athenian stable after running off to follow a horse’s wing she saw in the sky. Could it have been Nikomedes, the flying horse ridden by Zeus? That night she falls asleep beneath a bush only to wake on Mount Olympus, the heavenly home of the gods, having been chosen by Aphrodite to ride her stallion Zephyr in a once-a-century race. The winning horse will become Zeus’ next mount; the winning rider, a demigod. Zephyr’s an unlikely champion, being both undersized and fidgety. This book is billed as the first in a series and bears many of the hallmarks of mediocre series fiction: shallow characters, contrived emotions, and lots of exclamation points. Despite her sad backstory, Pippa never inspires sympathy. Stereotypical Greek gods float in and out of the story without enough background to anchor them; the setting is vague despite lots of Greek words; and the plot doesn’t hold narrative tension. There aren’t serious consequences for losing the race, so it’s hard to care whether or not Pippa wins. The horses are multicolored; the riders seem to be white, and the gods appear also to be default white.

With a first book this flat, it’s hard to envision a series. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-274152-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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Readers should stick with the Warriors and the Guardians of Ga’hoole for better treatments of this formula.

STARFIRE

From the Guardian Herd series , Vol. 1

Star, a pegasus fated to wield great power, must choose to use it to either heal or destroy, but only if he can survive until his first birthday.

Each century, the Hundred Year Star appears in the sky, announcing the birth of a black foal to one of the five pegasus herds of Anok. The prophecy states that the foal, empowered by the star itself, will rise to either destroy or unite the herds. However, Star hardly seems a pegasus of destiny. While he is fiercely loyal to his friends and brave in the face of his enemies, flight eludes him. His seemingly defective wings are the least of his problems. His appearance has made the leaders of the five herds nervous. Some want him dead, while others see him as a source of power. An over-large cast full of pegasi with confusing names and muddled personalities makes this nearly unreadable: Rockwing, Thunderwing and Grasswing are only part of the problem; it’s compounded by such monikers as Bumblewind and Brackentail, and Flamesky poses a particular challenge. The derivative plot is also problematic, as it is so similar to other series that are both more familiar and better written. Unfortunately, the mysterious beauty of pegasi is lost in a muddle of confusing characters and a less-than-stellar story.

Readers should stick with the Warriors and the Guardians of Ga’hoole for better treatments of this formula. (list of characters, map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-228606-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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