An action-packed animal tale with three-dimensional characters, dynamic plotting, and a satisfying, suspenseful struggle...

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VENOM WARS OF THE DESERT REALM

Three hares and their allies must stop venomous creatures bent on conquest in this debut middle-grade fantasy adventure.

A brutal attack on benevolent eagles King Aridin and Queen Sparra—and the kidnapping of their unhatched prince for nefarious purposes—catapults the peaceful Desert Realm into war with venomous frogs, scorpions, snakes, wasps, and bats controlled by vile lizard Hillmaken. As more and more desert inhabitants—including wild pigs and coyotes—mutate into poisonous evildoers under the influence of the mysterious Venom Stone that fell “from the heavens,” Hillmaken’s army swells. The Realm’s only hope to defeat it is a trio of seemingly ordinary hares. According to ancient tortoise Honu, brothers Nick, Cade, and Sam must risk their lives to fulfill a prophecy and prevent the “Venomous Ones” from bringing all creatures under their “cold and cruel” rule. In their quest to fulfill their destiny, the young hares encounter life-threatening dangers and unexpected (and imaginatively conceived) magical aid. Their close friend Olivia the owl has her own brave role to play in the fight, involving in part Baumann’s enjoyable strategy featuring spiderwebs. Readers afraid of creepy-crawlies should be aware that there are heaps of them here, and the author doesn’t stint on gruesomeness. In Hillmaken’s subterranean lair, reeking of death and “littered with the skeletons of various creatures he had devoured,” the pulsing Venom Stone’s function is grisly indeed. Shaped by well-timed scene shifts and smartly balanced action and suspense—and complemented by Negali’s rich, painterly illustrations—Baumann’s narrative of imperiled royals, malevolent villains, ferocious battles, a magical prophecy, and Everyman heroes gives readers of all ages ample reasons to stay hooked, despite a few rough spots. (For example, at the top of a giant mesa are “torches hung near the opening” and a “hollow” that seems in the next sentence to become a “cavern.”) Although Baumann’s fantasy animal world lacks the depth of Brian Jacques’ Redwall universe and can use a bit of polish, it is still substantive.

An action-packed animal tale with three-dimensional characters, dynamic plotting, and a satisfying, suspenseful struggle between good and evil.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5468-3595-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

BEHIND THE BLUE

A fan of magic and her reluctant companion embark on an adventure when the mysterious Blue Man charges them with a mission.

Little Katherine contemplates what exists behind the scrim of the sky, and she gets her answer after she meets a boy named Charlie, who literally runs into her upon fleeing a blue man and a talking salamander he encounters in the nearby forest. The man is non-threatening, and asks the two to help him recover some lost items, to which Katherine heartily agrees. He doesn’t provide much information, however, so once she and Charlie enter this enchanted universe, they must take it upon themselves to figure out what the Blue Man has lost and how to go about helping him find it. With the help of guides like snarky, enigmatic Gerald and good-natured Frank, the children travel through very deep puddles to different realms behind the clouds, learning about the Blue Man’s nemesis, Grey Lady, who may have snatched his magical dragon stones. Schilling’s well drawn, vibrant world elevates his story above the standard adventure quest. His lively, amusing dialogue complements a fantastical world where fish flit through the air like bees (and may accidentally transport you elsewhere), manta rays make shy cabbies, crushed flowers pop back to life and magic permeates everything. While adults will find the narrative captivating, this book is tailor-made for storytime read-alouds.

An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

Pub Date: July 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-595-36189-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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AFTER HAMELIN

An expansion of the classic story of the pied piper, this tells of young Penelope, left behind when the piper returns for the children of Hamelin after saving the town from rats. On her 11th birthday, she must enter the world of dreams, accompanied by an eclectic assortment of companions—a talking cat, a jump-roping dragon, a blind harpist—and eventually face the piper himself in a battle of power, greed, and music. Narrated by a 101-year-old Penelope, the story bounces between recollections of the adventure, ruminations on her life, and meeting another Penelope, who is approaching her 11th birthday. By trying to incorporate too many subplots, Richardson fails to explain some of the more central points of the main story. He also introduces and dismisses concepts and props with no consistency. Penelope brings a jump rope with her, but it is rarely mentioned until she has use for it. The only way for Penelope to resist the piper’s enchanted music is to not hear it; she suddenly becomes deaf on her 11th birthday, an occurrence left unexplained. Nor does the reader ever find out why she conveniently regains her hearing upon entering the dreamland. Contrived and disjointed, this is an original interpretation that lacks development. Likely to attract lovers of fairy-tales, but it will disappoint. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-55037-629-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Firefly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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