A quirky, cleareyed enchantment. More like this, please! (Mystery. 10-14)

IRIS AND THE TIGER

A biracial (Chinese/white) Australian girl unravels art-historical and familial mysteries at a relative’s estate in rural Spain.

Iris Chen-Taylor, 12, has an uncomfortable mission from her parents: to discover who stands to inherit eccentric Great-Aunt Ursula’s massive Spanish estate, Bosque de Nubes. Iris’ parents suspect Ursula has a paramour, and they claim an interest in keeping the estate in the family. In the countryside beyond Barcelona, Ursula maintains the estate and the memory of her late brother, James, whose surrealist paintings are highly sought after. Iris’ parents have instructed her to ingratiate herself with the old lady and to make notes on the building’s structural integrity, but once at Bosque de Nubes (in English, “Forest of Mist”), Iris is disturbed, perplexed, and enchanted by turns when she discovers such oddities as sunflowers playing tennis and a pair of willful boots attached to real-seeming human feet. Iris quickly enlists help from Jordi, the white son of Ursula’s groundskeeper, to unravel the intertwined mysteries of the estate, its grounds, and her uncle’s paintings. Is art imitating life or the other way around? And what do the pushy neighbors want with those cagey land surveyors? Readers will happily go along for the ride as Iris and Jordi combine method and adventure to solve these riddles.

A quirky, cleareyed enchantment. More like this, please! (Mystery. 10-14)

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-925240-79-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Text

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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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

From the Keeper of the Lost Cities series , Vol. 1

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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