With a little bit of naughty and a lot of nice, this Christmastime yarn is a veritable sugarplum.

THE GIRL WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS

From the Boy Called Christmas series , Vol. 2

Orphaned chimney sweep Amelia loses everything, including hope, leaving Christmas in dire jeopardy.

This companion to A Boy Called Christmas (2016) is written in the same jolly tone and similarly decorated with waggish illustrations. Eight-year-old Amelia, who once brimmed with hope, was the very first child to receive a present from Father Christmas. But because trolls destroyed the sleigh, the only thing Amelia received last Christmas was to be tossed into a workhouse run by the odious Mr. Creeper. Now starved and worked relentlessly, Amelia has run out of hope, the essential fuel for the magic of Christmas, and consequently Father Christmas can hardly get the sleigh off the ground or stop time long enough to get presents delivered to all the children of the world. It becomes Father Christmas’ mission to find Amelia amid the peculiar streets and humanity of London. This tale is classically atmospheric; in fact, Charles Dickens himself makes some very important appearances. With an abundance of chortleworthy silliness (“Vixen bit Comet’s ear for sniffing her bottom”), supreme wisdom is bestowed: trolls aren’t very smart, but they don’t hate Father Christmas; Flying Story Pixies will do anything for wonderful new words; and most importantly, hope is born in the simple act of kindness. The human cast appears to be an all-white one.

With a little bit of naughty and a lot of nice, this Christmastime yarn is a veritable sugarplum. (Fantasy. 6-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-0044-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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

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

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

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

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. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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