Still, it stands alone neatly, and the lore of blacksmith work is carried through with vivid energy.

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THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS

Faint echoes of “Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White” waft up from this new fantasy.

Sand (short for Alexandre) wakes in the ashes of a fireplace, in a castle in which every room and object has been broken: the Sundered Castle. He doesn’t know how he got there, but a vicious, active wall of thorns keeps him within. Son of a blacksmith, he goes about attempting to mend whatever he can, and when he finds the body of a girl, he rearranges her limbs carefully—and she awakens. Perrotte has been dead—or asleep—for over 25 years. Like Sand, she is about 13; unlike him, she is of noble birth. The first half of the tale is about mending everything in the castle, Perrotte and Sand working together through the forging and firing and hammering. The second half, however, gets rather muddled. Perrotte withholds her complicated and violent political history from Sand, as well as the news that a knight will be coming through the thorn barrier to plunge her back into it. It’s possible that two saints whose broken relics Sand mends hold the key to the future. These elements do not hang together as well as the beautifully sustained central metaphor of blacksmithing. Moreover, Sand and Perrotte seem much older than 13, and the ending preaches loudly.

Still, it stands alone neatly, and the lore of blacksmith work is carried through with vivid energy. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-200819-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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