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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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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The young folk and (of course) the animals are engagingly wrought in this tale with a strong ecological message.

WILLODEEN

An orphan loner’s small town faces a hard future after it unwittingly disrupts a natural cycle.

Willodeen is lucky that elderly retired thespians Mae and Birdie took her in after the wildfire that killed her parents and brother, not only because they’re a loving couple, but because they let her roam the woods in search of increasingly rare screechers—creatures so vile-tempered and stinky that the village elders of Perchance have put a bounty on them. The elders have other worries, though: The migratory hummingbears that have long nested in the area, drawing tourists to the lucrative annual Autumn Faire, have likewise nearly vanished. Could there be a connection? If there is, Willodeen is just the person to find it—but who would believe her? Applegate’s characters speak in pronouncements about life and nature that sometimes seem to address readers more than other characters, but the winsome illustrations lighten the thematic load. Screechers appear much like comically fierce warthogs and hummingbears, as small teddies with wings. Applegate traces a burgeoning friendship between her traumatized protagonist and Connor, a young artist who turns found materials into small animals so realistic that one actually comes to life. In the end, the townsfolk do listen and pitch in to make amends. Red-haired, gray-eyed Willodeen is cued as White; Connor has brown skin, and other human characters read as White by default.

The young folk and (of course) the animals are engagingly wrought in this tale with a strong ecological message. (Eco-fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-14740-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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