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From the Wildseed Witch series , Vol. 1

A delightful start to a fresh series.

A young African American witch learns that magic makes life quite complicated.

School is out in New Orleans, and Hasani Schexnayder-Jones is grateful for summer vacation. She’s free to work on her YouTube channel, MakeupontheCheapCheap. Unfortunately, the free time also allows Hasani to see her dad’s new girlfriend, Sandy, flaunting herself all over Instagram. She cannot understand why her parents separated, and after learning that Sandy has moved in with her dad, Hasani’s magic springs to life in a burst of emotion. Les Belles Demoiselles: Finir l’École des Sorcières, the premier charm school for witches, catches wind of Hasani’s raw magical promise and invites her to enroll. Hasani believes this will be a welcome distraction, but coming from a nonmagical family, she encounters a frosty roommate, unspoken rules that everyone else knows, and magic that she struggles to control. Even worse, there’s barely any signal to upload her YouTube videos. As she slowly learns the ways of magic, Hasani tries to apply it to her problems, but her meddling is not without consequences. When her favorite subscriber goes missing, Hasani must muster all her talents to find her before it’s too late. Dumas invites readers into a wonderful world of witchcraft that highlights the contributions of the diaspora; the infusion of Creole heritage and the acknowledgement of enslavement grounds this world without dimming its light. Readers will relate to the struggles of standing out, feeling inadequate, and accepting change.

A delightful start to a fresh series. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5561-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high...

Two parallel stories, one of a Syrian boy from Aleppo fleeing war, and another of a white American boy, son of a NATO contractor, dealing with the challenges of growing up, intersect at a house in Brussels.

Ahmed lost his father while crossing the Mediterranean. Alone and broke in Europe, he takes things into his own hands to get to safety but ends up having to hide in the basement of a residential house. After months of hiding, he is discovered by Max, a boy of similar age and parallel high integrity and courage, who is experiencing his own set of troubles learning a new language, moving to a new country, and being teased at school. In an unexpected turn of events, the two boys and their new friends Farah, a Muslim Belgian girl, and Oscar, a white Belgian boy, successfully scheme for Ahmed to go to school while he remains in hiding the rest of the time. What is at stake for Ahmed is immense, and so is the risk to everyone involved. Marsh invites art and history to motivate her protagonists, drawing parallels to gentiles who protected Jews fleeing Nazi terror and citing present-day political news. This well-crafted and suspenseful novel touches on the topics of refugees and immigrant integration, terrorism, Islam, Islamophobia, and the Syrian war with sensitivity and grace.

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high values in the face of grave risk and succeed in drawing goodwill from others. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-30757-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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