Whip-smart plotting makes this adventure an ideal romp.

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MATTHEW PATTERSON AND THE WISH DEFENDERS

In this middle-grade fantasy debut, the removal of pennies from a water fountain unleashes magical forces both good and evil.

Matthew Patterson’s 13th birthday isn’t going too well. Football tryouts are a disaster when school bully Dan Valdner trips him. Worse, the kindhearted Kelsey Robins can only look on while the coach boots Matthew from the field. Later, his parents take him and his best friend, Johnny Barnes, to the family’s favorite restaurant, The Inn of the Eleventh Ray. In the restaurant’s courtyard is a stone fountain featuring sculptures of odd creatures with “long arms, pointy fingers, and long, curling tails.” Matthew impulsively grabs three pennies from the fountain, little realizing that the act is noticed high above, and far below, the restaurant. In caves deep within the Earth, Bolterkein, ruler of the Wish Stealers, dispatches his agents—Glut, Sluth, and Tanger—to help steal the energy from the wishes that Matthew has placed in jeopardy. Meanwhile, on “the brightest star in the sky,” Empress Hopreme of the Wish Defenders responds with her own team: Nova, Dodd, and Byno. Their mission is to aid Matthew in returning the coins to the fountain within 24 hours or Bolterkein will be one step closer to escaping his subterranean prison. For their collaboration, Holm and Foster deliver a bouncy adventure with some exceptionally daring twists. First among them is that the wishes made with Matthew’s pennies are coming undone. WNBA all-star Judy Hughes loses her skills on the court, and the elderly Clay Williams finds that his wife, Edith, is once again gravely ill. That the third coin belonged to the protagonist’s parents—which sets Matthew himself unraveling—further jolts this creative story. Trim, capable prose transports readers, as when “Clouds slowly drifted by the pinkish-purple sunset....The planet’s surface was covered with large islands surrounded by turquoise-blue water.” After time spent at a water park and in a car chase, the narrative ties several threads together in a remarkable bow, highlighting the role of hard work in life.

Whip-smart plotting makes this adventure an ideal romp.

Pub Date: March 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-578-20056-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Holmade Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath...

GREGORY AND THE GRIMBOCKLE

In this debut middle-grade novel, a lonely boy finds friendship and learns about the magic of human connection.

Defined by the large mole on his lip, 10-year-old Gregory has grown distant from his family. He is friendless and withdrawn. Then one night a strange little creature emerges from Gregory’s mole. It is riding a (quite lovable) cockroach and can change size. This is the Grimbockle. The Grimbockle—one of many Bockles, who, like Palmer Cox’s Brownies, live at the peripheries of human awareness—tends to the exoodles that bind people together. Exoodles are long, transparent, noodlelike threads and are usually invisible. Once Gregory has his eyeballs painted with Carrot Juicy, though, he can see them. He joins the Grimbockle and the roach, traveling the exoodles as if on a high-speed roller coaster. Exoodles wither and die when people don’t look after their relationships. The Grimbockle is trying to repair a particularly sickly exoodle that links a boy to his mother. Can Gregory help—and can he mend the exoodles in his own life? Schubert follows delightedly in the footsteps of Roald Dahl, opening her unfortunate young protagonist’s eyes to a previously unseen world both weird and wondrous (yet for all its outlandish magic, oddly logical). The scenario is one of riotous imagination, while the Grimbockle himself—brought sweetly to life in black-and-white illustrations by Kraft—is a sprightly and good-natured little person, full of the type of singsong infelicities found in Dahl’s beloved nonhuman characters: “Is you ever seeing glimpses of squiggles in the corners of your twinklers but then they is disappearing in a snippety blink?” “ ‘Exoodles!’ shouted the Grimbockle in triumph. ‘Sometimes, hoo-mans is getting so twisty and wound up in extra exoodles that they is feeling gloomy blue and heavy all day long.’ ” The story is perhaps too much of a parable to fully match Dahl’s template; the adventure is safer and the threats less dark. Nonetheless, readers should fall willingly and with thrilled abandon into the fizzy, fanciful world of Gregory and his Grimbockle friend.

A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath surface appearances.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9911109-3-3

Page Count: 153

Publisher: New Wrinkle Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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