An unsettling, engaging dream-world adventure

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THE DREAMWAY

When pragmatic Stella’s imaginative twin brother, Cole, loses his spirit in the dream world, she must rescue him before he is consumed by shadow creatures who thrive on the creative brightness of human beings.

It begins when Cole investigates something he sees moving in the subway and becomes so spooked he leaves his treasured notebook of stories behind. Cole’s behavior swiftly changes, and Stella begins to have dreams that land her in the Dreamway, the place where all human beings go when they dream. There she encounters Anyway, a Door Mouse who just happens to possess a torn piece of Cole’s notebook. Anyway informs Sheila that her brother’s spirit has been taken by a Chimerath, and to rescue him, they must get to the Nightmare Line. Stella struggles to navigate her waking hours, during which Cole is becoming angrier and more violent, and her time in the Dreamway, where she and Anyway, with the help of a few Dreamway employees, work to find Cole before his light is completely drained. Though the worldbuilding can be arbitrary and is largely delivered in expository dumps from Anyway, this tale has a beguiling, appropriately Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland–steampunk feel. The book subscribes to the white default. Stella has a childhood stroke–induced physical disability by day; although it seems to disappear by night as she bravely traverses the unpredictable landscape of the dream world, Anyway tells her she is not healed, adding a layer of healthy realism.

An unsettling, engaging dream-world adventure . (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-237111-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing.

SUNNY ROLLS THE DICE

From the Sunny series , Vol. 3

Sunny, in seventh grade, finds her score on the Groovy Meter taking some wild swings as her friends’ interests move in different directions.

In a motif that haunts her throughout, Sunny succumbs to a teen magazine’s personality quiz and sees her tally seesaw radically. Her BF Deb has suddenly switched focus to boys, clothes, and bands such as the Bee Gees (this is 1977)—dismissing trick-or-treating and wearing galoshes on rainy days as “babyish.” Meanwhile, Sunny takes delight in joining nerdy neighbors Lev, Brian, and Arun in regular sessions of Dungeons and Dragons (as a fighter character, so cool). The storytelling is predominantly visual in this episodic outing, with just occasional snatches of dialogue and pithy labels to fill in details or mark the passage of time; frequent reaction shots deftly capture Sunny’s feelings of being pulled this way and that. Tellingly, in the Holms’ panels (colored by Pien), Sunny’s depicted as significantly smaller than Deb, visually underscoring her developmental awkwardness. Deb’s comment that “we’re too old to be playing games like that” leads Sunny to drop out of the D&D circle and even go to the school’s staggeringly dull spring dance. Sunny’s mostly white circle of peers expands and becomes more diverse as she continues to navigate her way through the dark chambers and misty passages of early adolescence. Lev is an Orthodox Jew, Arun is South Asian, and Regina, another female friend, has brown skin.

The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing. (Graphic historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-23314-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012) will appreciate this feel-good story of friendship and unconventional smarts.

FISH IN A TREE

Hunt draws a portrait of dyslexia and getting along.

Ally Nickerson, who’s passed through seven schools in seven years, maintains a Sketchbook of Impossible Things. A snowman in a furnace factory is more plausible than imagining herself doing something right—like reading. She doesn't know why, but letters dance and give her headaches. Her acting out to disguise her difficulty causes headaches for her teachers, who, oddly, never consider dyslexia, even though each notices signs like inconsistent spellings of the same word. Ally's confusion is poignant when misunderstandings like an unintentional sympathy card for a pregnant teacher make her good intentions backfire, and readers will sympathize as she copes with the class "mean girls." When a creative new teacher, Mr. Daniels, steps in, the plot turns more uplifting but also metaphor-heavy; a coin with a valuable flaw, cupcakes with hidden letters, mystery boxes and references to the Island of Misfit Toys somewhat belabor the messages that things aren't always what they seem and everyone is smart in their own ways. Despite emphasis on "thinking outside the box," characters are occasionally stereotypical—a snob, a brainiac, an unorthodox teacher—but Ally's new friendships are satisfying, as are the recognition of her dyslexia and her renewed determination to read.

Fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012) will appreciate this feel-good story of friendship and unconventional smarts. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-16259-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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