It’s an unabashed pastiche, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

A DARK DESCENT

From the Ages of Oz series , Vol. 2

Young Glinda and her purple-haired friend Locasta take another step toward saving Oz by tackling the Wicked Witch of the North.

Aphidina, the Wicked Witch of the South, may be history (see A Fiery Friendship, 2017), but even as the grass-roots Foursworn Revolution gathers steam, challenges remain for the band of doughty young heroes. Notable among these is finding and enlisting the long-hidden Elemental Fairies to battle not only the remaining three Wicked Witches, but also the disembodied “fifth Witch” who controls them. Fiedler strews the narrative with sly allusions (“I have a feeling we aren’t in Quadling anymore”), such requisite elements as a magic map and rhymed clues (Locasta: “Oh, hey, here’s a surprise. Another obscure and cryptic verse for us to decipher”), and melodramatic but leisurely battles in which no one is ever described as bleeding or dying. She populates her quest with exotic denizens from Sea Fairies and the winged monkeys to the pun-loving Nome King. Flashbacks, references to recent events, and a plethora of characters both new and vintage make familiarity with the opener a must and at least a passing acquaintance with some of the original series’ classic episodes a good idea. Oz’s inhabitants come in a great variety of colors and species; Glinda and the human(oid) members of her company are white.

It’s an unabashed pastiche, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6974-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

THE CONSPIRACY

From the Plot to Kill Hitler series , Vol. 1

Near the end of World War II, two kids join their parents in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.

Max, 12, lives with his parents and his older sister in a Berlin that’s under constant air bombardment. During one such raid, a mortally wounded man stumbles into the white German family’s home and gasps out his last wish: “The Führer must die.” With this nighttime visitation, Max and Gerta discover their parents have been part of a resistance cell, and the siblings want in. They meet a colorful band of upper-class types who seem almost too whimsical to be serious. Despite her charming levity, Prussian aristocrat and cell leader Frau Becker is grimly aware of the stakes. She enlists Max and Gerta as couriers who sneak forged identification papers to Jews in hiding. Max and Gerta are merely (and realistically) cogs in the adults’ plans, but there’s plenty of room for their own heroism. They escape capture, rescue each other when they’re caught out during an air raid, and willingly put themselves repeatedly at risk to catch a spy. The fictional plotters—based on a mix of several real anti-Hitler resistance cells—are portrayed with a genuine humor, giving them the space to feel alive even in such a slim volume.

It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35902-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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