There are so few children’s books featuring sympathetic Muslim characters that it’s impossible to discount this one, but...

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WHEN WINGS EXPAND

A 12-year-old Canadian Muslim girl chronicles the death of her terminally ill mother and her slow healing.

When the book opens, Nur’s mother has been sick for months, and treatments seem to be going nowhere. Nur picks up the diary her mother gave her and names it “Buraq” after a legendary animal that flew Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem. The piety that guides her here carries her through the gut-wrenching grief that is to follow, as does the discovery of some monarch butterfly chrysalises. Nur’s Baba tells her that “Allah has made everything in a pattern. He said people are part of that pattern too. Just like chrysalises don’t stay the same, people don’t stay the same either.” While skeptics may find the metaphor of a butterfly’s emergence from a chrysalis an inapt way to help a child deal with the death of a parent, it seems to work for Nur. Whether this book will work for children is another open question. Nur is so good, so pious, so ingenuous that she is very hard to relate to. While her grief and her rage never feel false, they are so quickly mitigated by her faith, at first mediated by her devout parents (her mother dies with “Allah” on her lips) and later on her own, that she seems more a role model for grieving in Islam than a real child.

There are so few children’s books featuring sympathetic Muslim characters that it’s impossible to discount this one, but it’s pretty pallid stuff. (glossary) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-86037-499-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Kube Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the...

DEADLY PINK

Vande Velde again traps teenagers inside an authentically depicted arcade game—but here she works twists into the premise that are both amusing and crank up the danger.

As in User Unfriendly (1991) and Heir Apparent (2002), the game, called “The Land of Golden Butterflies,” is manufactured by the shadowy Rasmussem Corp. and is fully immersive, fed directly into the brain through electrodes. Into this game 14-year-old Grace Pizzelli’s big sister Emily has gone; moreover, she has refused to come out and altered the code so she can’t be forcibly ejected. As sessions that run longer than a few hours cause brain damage and death, the corporation desperately turns to Grace to follow Emily in and persuade her to leave. Reluctantly agreeing, Grace discovers to her disgust that, rather than offering the usual heroic-fantasy or science-fiction setting, this digital world has been colored in pinks and lavenders. It is stocked with (supposedly) benign magical creatures and hunky male servitors—in general, it seems designed to cater to 10-year-old would-be princesses. The idyll has gone sour, though, because thanks to Emily’s fiddling, not only have the wish-granting sprites turned nasty, but the game’s governing Artificial Intelligence has changed the Rules—disabling the “Quit” function and forcing both Grace and her already-failing sister to embark on a seemingly hopeless quest with their real lives at stake.

Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the digital domain. (Science fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-73850-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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A heaping plateful of adventure, spiced to perfection with dangers, deft humor and silly bits.

THE TRAVELING RESTAURANT

JASPER'S VOYAGE IN THREE PARTS

From the Tales of Fontania series , Vol. 1

A seemingly ordinary lad boards a seagoing eatery and is swept up in a series of flights and pursuits that lead him to a higher destiny than he expects (or even wants, particularly).

Having banished all magic (even mention of the word) from the realm of Fontania, evil Lady Gall is on her way to removing the “Provisional” from her title of “Provisional Monarch.” Her attempt to poison Jasper’s beloved little sister Sibilla pitches his secretive extended family into hurried flight. Outraged and confused, Jasper is somehow left behind—but wangles a berth aboard the Traveling Restaurant, a floating diner painted like a circus wagon, and sets out to catch up. Else arranges her narrative into short chapters with titles like “This Is When It Becomes Fraught” and strews it with pirates, wild waters, sudden twists of fortune, family revelations and scrumptious tucker (Jasper finds a snatched chunk of salami “a farmyard of deliciousness in one mouthful”). She sets her quick-witted protagonist on a course that not only sharpens his already-considerable culinary skills but gives him a central role in rescuing his shipwrecked family, decisively scotching Lady Gall’s schemes and restoring magic to the land. Jasper does this with help from a supporting cast stocked with likable enemies, sometimes-unlikable allies and one particularly perspicuous toddler.

A heaping plateful of adventure, spiced to perfection with dangers, deft humor and silly bits. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-8775-7903-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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