A magic tale that offers fun for young readers, but skews toward adults in scope.

LIAM MCPHEE AND THE THIEF OF LAUGHTER

In this middle-grade fantasy debut, a group of children hopes to thwart the malicious schemes of Scotland’s Dark Faeries.

In Scotland, on the unremarkable Scruncheon Road, lives an 11-year-old named Liam McPhee. It’s early in the reign of Queen Victoria, and Liam’s mother, Fiona, works at a corner bakery, just below a bookstore. The boy’s life is idyllic, as he and his friends—Sally Sutherland (who’s almost 10) and Izzy Flett and Mhairi MacDougal (both 8)—spend their days collecting shells at the seashore and listening to fabulous tales of the fae world. One day, the children find a tunnel entrance among the shoreline rocks. Deep within the tunnel, they come upon an iron foundry. An ironmonger named Hammity Drudge is building a ship for pirate Rico Sauleri. Though the black-hearted men hear the children spying, Liam and company escape. Later, they travel with the enchanted Ragpicker to the realm of Tir Na n’Og to meet the Faery Queen Luminata. Rico and Drudge, meanwhile, sail the newly finished Maisterful into the Black Causeway, where the Dark Faeries rule. They make a deal with Glaistig, the Dark Faery Queen, to steal and hold for ransom all of Scotland’s laughter. Little do the villains realize that a brave band of imaginative children stands ready to halt them. In this boisterous story, Evangeline casts a wide array of mythological creatures—including Waterbulls and Banshees—in an adventurous pageant through Victorian Scotland. Early on, animated prose conveys the joyful nation that would vanish if laughter were stolen (“The cluster of celestial children seemed more of the air than the earth, delicate, as if splendid light t’were let loose”). The plot, which comes to revolve around the magical Dunvegan Cup, remains as straightforward and colorful as a soccer match—at least until the game is essentially won, and Glaistig unleashes further forces of evil. Adults who devour lengthy series like Percy Jackson should encounter much to like here. But Evangeline’s core audience may find a novel that buzzes with so many characters and creatures and so much action a bit challenging.

A magic tale that offers fun for young readers, but skews toward adults in scope.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Celtic Light Productions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2017

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S HALLOWEEN

A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes.

Little Blue Truck and his buddy Toad are off to a party, and they invite readers (and a black cat) along for the ride: “ ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ / says Little Blue. / ‘It’s Halloween!’ / You come, too.” As they drive, they are surprised (and joined) by many of their friends in costume. “Who’s that in a tutu / striking a pose / up on the tiniest / tips of her toes? / Under the mask / who do you see?” Lifting the flap unmasks a friend: “ ‘Quack!’ says the duck. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’ ” The sheep is disguised as a clown, the cow’s a queen, the pig’s a witch, the hen and her chick are pirates, and the horse is a dragon. Not to be left out, Little Blue has a costume, too. The flaps are large and sturdy, and enough of the animals’ characteristic features are visible under and around the costumes that little ones will be able to make successful guesses even on the first reading. Lovely curvy shapes and autumn colors fade to dusky blues as night falls, and children are sure to notice the traditional elements of a Halloween party: apple bobbing, lit jack-o’-lanterns, and punch and treats.

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77253-3

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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