ECLIPSE ARTS

Supernatural preteens face relatable challenges in this deftly balanced fantasy tale.

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Seventh graders strive to follow their dreams at a magical school for the arts in Chastaine’s middle-grade novel.

A story in the magical boarding school vein with its own thoughtful approach, this lively fantasy, the first in a series, is well grounded in real-life concerns, including pressures from peers and parents, shaky self-confidence, and the importance of self-advocacy. Liska, Ephy, and Airin have just started seventh grade at the Eclipse Supernatural School for the Arts, where the students and faculty include witches, ghosts, phantoms, and even a Christmas elf. Liska is a shifter, able to take on the form of a fox. Ephy, from Olympia, is half-human, half-goddess. Airin is a banshee. All three face parental disapproval or disdain for their chosen artistic fields: Liska’s father insists that she carry on the family tradition of dance, but Liska is determined to study music; Airin, a subservient protector of the Darklighter family of enchanters, hopes to become a singer; and Ephy’s unloving mother (“who only smiled for photos”) pressures her to emulate her favored demigod brother’s TV and social media celebrity, but Ephy wants to use her light-shaping ability in the theater. Some of the colorful fantasy elements could use additional fleshing out (what is actually taught in the “Unlivables” class for friendly Ghost and Ghouls?), but the author’s empathy for young people struggling to follow their own paths despite internal and external challenges resonates, starting with the novel’s dedication to “anyone who has ever felt like they didn’t quite fit in” (this empathy is underscored when, as a simple, everyday courtesy, the characters introduce themselves to each other with their preferred pronouns). Friendships with like-minded peers and a few supportive adults make a difference, as does a defining moment in which Liska, Ephy, and Airin work together to create an original, autobiographical musical performance for a school competition. The novel’s third-person narration alternates perspectives between the three main characters—and intriguingly touches on a fourth when exploring what drives arrogant cellist Oliver Darklighter to bully Airin without excusing his behavior.

Supernatural preteens face relatable challenges in this deftly balanced fantasy tale.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023

ISBN: 979-8851778728

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Independently Published

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

CHARLOTTE'S WEB

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

GHOSTS

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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