This series opener promises zany fun, but by placing cruel and nonhuman people of color in opposition to lovely white...


From the Bella Broomstick series , Vol. 1

A self-described “hopeless witch” finds a warm and welcoming home.

Belladonna Broomstick is chronically challenged when it comes to magic. When she fails the entrance exam to the Creepy Castle School for Witches and Wizards, her misanthropic aunt Hemlock decides to send her to the mythic Person World as a foster child. Filled with misinformation about the Person World, Belladonna is initially apprehensive, but once Aunt Hemlock and Belladonna travel through the Curtain of Invisibility that conceals the Magic Realm from the Person World, they find the adorable town of Merrymeet and a charming couple in a sweet cottage. Belladonna, now Bella, loves Uncle Martin and Aunty Rose on sight and observes striking comparisons between her new family and neighborhood and her old ones. Bella basks in her new family’s creature comforts: hot water, bubble baths, trendy clothes, and more delectable breakfasts. She also notes how much more attractive Persons are in comparison to the community she comes from…no more visible warts! It doesn’t take long before Bella disobeys Aunt Hemlock’s warnings and performs magic; hijinks ensue. Notably, Belladonna and cruel, ugly, smelly Aunt Hemlock are the only people of color depicted in the book, while the kindly Persons of Merrymeet are white. Beneath the surface tale of a lonely child who finds an accepting family lies a mire of comparisons that reinforces harsh stereotypes.

This series opener promises zany fun, but by placing cruel and nonhuman people of color in opposition to lovely white humans, it does all readers a disservice . (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6780-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.


Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Good-hearted fun—great for fans of Kit Feeny and Babymouse.


From the Yeti Files series , Vol. 1

It’s a Bigfeet family reunion!

Everyone’s favorite frosty, furry cryptid, the yeti, actually has a name: Blizz Richards. From his supersecret HQ in Nepal he keeps in touch with his fellow cryptids, all of whom have sworn an oath to keep themselves hidden. That’s not always easy, especially when there are cryptozoologists, like the nasty (but bumbling) George Vanquist, who are always trying to expose the secretive creatures. Vanquist got a picture of Blizz’s cousin Brian near his home in British Columbia, causing the mortified Brian to disappear entirely. When Blizz receives an invitation to a Bigfeet family reunion in Canada, he calls his buddies Alexander (one of Santa’s elves), Gunthar (a goblin) and Frank the Arctic fox to help him get ready. When they arrive in Canada, Brian is still nowhere to be seen. Can Blizz and his skunk ape and other sasquatch cousins find Brian, have the reunion and evade Vanquist? If anyone can, the Bigfeet clan can. Illustrator Sherry’s first volume in the Yeti Files is a fast and funny graphic-prose tale full of labeled pictures and comic-style panels. Those just starting chapter books may have some trouble with a few big words, but they’ll enjoy the big friendly monsters and immediately ask for the next tale—which looks to be about the Loch Ness monster.

Good-hearted fun—great for fans of Kit Feeny and Babymouse. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-55617-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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