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

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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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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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DIARY OF A WIMPY KID

A NOVEL IN CARTOONS

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 1

First volume of a planned three, this edited version of an ongoing online serial records a middle-school everykid’s triumphs and (more often) tribulations through the course of a school year. Largely through his own fault, mishaps seem to plague Greg at every turn, from the minor freak-outs of finding himself permanently seated in class between two pierced stoners and then being saddled with his mom for a substitute teacher, to being forced to wrestle in gym with a weird classmate who has invited him to view his “secret freckle.” Presented in a mix of legible “hand-lettered” text and lots of simple cartoon illustrations with the punch lines often in dialogue balloons, Greg’s escapades, unwavering self-interest and sardonic commentary are a hoot and a half—certain to elicit both gales of giggles and winces of sympathy (not to mention recognition) from young readers. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8109-9313-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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