This series opener dances compellingly along the border separating its young, naïve heroine from harsh political realities

HEARTSEEKER

An 11-year-old who can see lies is dragged from her family orchard into the cesspit of royal politics.

It’s not her secret magical “cunning” that sets Only Fallow apart from the other girls in her rural community, it’s her parents’ relative wealth. The other girls have been cruel to her ever since her family started selling cider to the king way up in Bellskeep. Thank goodness she makes friends among the boat-dwelling Ordish. Prejudice against the Ordish is extreme—the king orders many of their children kidnapped into servitude—but these itinerant farmworkers are lovely to Only and her brothers. When a child-stealer nabs Only’s Ordish friends, her secret is out: Only can see deception. Such a power, not seen since times long past, would be invaluable to the crown, and an inquisitor comes to take Only away. When she arrives at Bellskeep after a miserable journey, she’s instantly thrust into a complex web of power games, manipulation, and cruelty. The violence being fomented against the nomadic, magic-using, and romanticized Ordish frightens Only and makes no sense to her. This generic, vaguely European fantasy kingdom is a largely white one, with a handful of darker-skinned foreigners from South Asian–ish Achery who may play larger roles in sequels. As high fantasy has skewed older in recent years, it’s refreshing to see one that’s solidly middle-grade, helmed by a believable 11-year-old whose growth in savvy and understanding of her own privilege come naturally.

This series opener dances compellingly along the border separating its young, naïve heroine from harsh political realities . (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4000-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that...

BEN FRANKLIN'S IN MY BATHROOM!

Antics both instructive and embarrassing ensue after a mysterious package left on their doorstep brings a Founding Father into the lives of two modern children.

Summoned somehow by what looks for all the world like an old-time crystal radio set, Ben Franklin turns out to be an amiable sort. He is immediately taken in hand by 7-year-old Olive for a tour of modern wonders—early versions of which many, from electrical appliances in the kitchen to the Illinois town’s public library and fire department, he justly lays claim to inventing. Meanwhile big brother Nolan, 10, tags along, frantic to return him to his own era before either their divorced mom or snoopy classmate Tommy Tuttle sees him. Fleming, author of Ben Franklin’s Almanac (2003) (and also, not uncoincidentally considering the final scene of this outing, Our Eleanor, 2005), mixes history with humor as the great man dispenses aphorisms and reminiscences through diverse misadventures, all of which end well, before vanishing at last. Following a closing, sequel-cueing kicker (see above) she then separates facts from fancies in closing notes, with print and online leads to more of the former. To go with spot illustrations of the evidently all-white cast throughout the narrative, Fearing incorporates change-of-pace sets of sequential panels for Franklin’s biographical and scientific anecdotes. Final illustrations not seen.

It’s not the first time old Ben has paid our times a call, but it’s funny and free-spirited, with an informational load that adds flavor without weight. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93406-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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A kid adventurer with a disability makes this steampunk offering stand out.

BRIGHTSTORM

From the Brightstorm series , Vol. 1

Orphaned twins, an adventurer dad lost to an ice monster, and an airship race around the world.

In Lontown, 12-year-old twins Arthur and Maudie learn that their explorer father has gone missing on his quest to reach South Polaris, the crew of his sky-ship apparently eaten by monsters. As he’s accused of sabotage, their father’s property is forfeit. The disgraced twins are sent off to live in a garret in a scene straight out of an Edwardian novel à la A Little Princess. Maudie has the consolation of her engineering skills, but all Arthur wants is to be an adventurer like his father. A chance to join Harriet Culpepper’s journey to South Polaris might offer excitement and let him clear his father’s name—if only he can avoid getting eaten by intelligent ice monsters. Though some steampunk set dressing is appropriately over-the-top (such as a flying house, thinly depicted but charming), adaptive tools for Arthur’s disability are wonderfully realistic. His iron arm is a standard, sometimes painful passive prosthesis. The crew adapts the airship galley for Arthur’s needs, even creating a spiked chopping board. Off the ship, Arthur and Maudie meet people and animals in vignettes that are appealingly rendered but slight. Harriet teaches the white twins respect for the cultures they encounter on these travels, though they are never more than observers of non-Lontowners’ different ways.

A kid adventurer with a disability makes this steampunk offering stand out. (Steampunk. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-324-00564-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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