Despite relentless English and German anti-war rumination, and Joey's own supra-equine understandings: some distinct...

WAR HORSE

In effect, a horse's eye view of the First World War—heart-rending in Black Beauty tradition, anti-war like All Quiet..., certainly unusual and dramatic.

The spirited young stallion is purchased by a Devon farmer, vicious when drunk, to thwart a despised neighbor; he is protected, however, by the farmer's gentle young son Albert, then 13, who names him Joey (to rhyme with old farm horse Zoey), tends him fondly, and trains him—"inside a week," after a paternal threat—to pull a plow. ("For [Zoey's] sake and for my own sake, for Albert's, too, I leaned my weight into my collar and began to pull.") Rumbles of war, then the reality: Joey is sold to the British cavalry, distraught Albert is turned away as too young, Joey acquires a new protector in Captain Nicholls and a new friend in majestic Topthorn. Following Captain Nicholls' death Joey and Topthorn are the sole horse survivors of what will be the war's last cavalry charge—clearly insane in the face of machine guns and barbed wire. Now German "prisoners," they are first utilized to pull ambulance wagons (under the reluctant aegis of a German aristocrat-horselover); then, happily, put to farm work by an elderly Frenchman and his lovable granddaughter Emilie; then recalled, to haul guns, by other, sterner Germans. (Says insightful Joey: "It was not that they were cruel men, but just that they seemed driven now by a fearful compulsion....") Staunch Topthorn dies, and Joey finds himself alone in No Man's Land, approached by a single Briton and a single German...who toss a coin—which comes up heads for the Briton. At the veterinary hospital, he is reunited (surprise) with Albert; then, saved by an all-hands effort from tetanus. But, incredibly, worse is still to come: at war's end, the war-veteran horses are auctioned off, and Albert and his buddies are almost outbid for Joey by the local butcher...when little Emilie's old farmer-grandfather steps in...not to rescue Joey for her but to present Joey to Albert in her memory. (That sentimental nadir is followed, fortunately, by brief word that Albert's soon-to-be-wife "never did take to me, nor I to her.")

Despite relentless English and German anti-war rumination, and Joey's own supra-equine understandings: some distinct glimpses of how it was to be a war-horse—in addition to that thundering melodrama. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 978-0-439-79663-7

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.

ALMOST SUPER

Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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