A solid, satisfying genre performance; it may not invent any new tricks, but it executes each component in a grand fashion.

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THE MAGE OF TRELIAN

From the Trelian series , Vol. 3

An exemplary middle-grade fantasy trilogy concludes with a blast. Lots of blasts.

Apprentice mage Calen knew he’d regret going off with a crazed villain to save his friends’ lives, but he didn’t realize how much he could learn from the vicious Mage Krelig. Meanwhile, his best friend, Princess Meg, is struggling to maintain her faith after his apparent betrayal, as she and her dragon begin military training to aid their besieged kingdom of Trelian. Since the loyal mages seem more interested in squabbling than in preparing for war, only Calen’s rapid growth in strength and skill may be enough to thwart Krelig—except that it’s getting ever harder for him to resist the lure of knowledge and power. This works as well as a friendship story as an epic fantasy; despite their long separation, the immensely likable main characters know and trust each other enough to rely upon the other’s ability, understand the risks the other must take, and accept the sometimes-painful changes that result. And each even gets a hint of romance (most refreshingly, not with each other)! The pacing races smoothly through increasingly dire events, right up to a suitably thrilling climax, into a denouement that, if not unrealistically blissful, exactly suits their personalities and desires.

A solid, satisfying genre performance; it may not invent any new tricks, but it executes each component in a grand fashion. (Fantasy. 11-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7436-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Harry's world by GrandPre's comic illustrations and Rowling's expert combination of...

HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

From the Harry Potter series , Vol. 2

This sequel to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998) brings back the doughty young wizard-in-training to face suspicious adults, hostile classmates, fretful ghosts, rambunctious spells, giant spiders, and even an avatar of Lord Voldemort, the evil sorcerer who killed his parents, while saving the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from a deadly, mysterious menace.

Ignoring a most peculiar warning, Harry kicks off his second year at Hogwarts after a dreadful summer with his hateful guardians, the Dursleys, and is instantly cast into a whirlwind of magical pranks and misadventures, culminating in a visit to the hidden cavern where his friend Ron's little sister Ginny lies, barely alive, in a trap set by his worst enemy. Surrounded by a grand mix of wise and inept faculty, sneering or loyal peers—plus an array of supernatural creatures including Nearly Headless Nick and a huge, serpentine basilisk—Harry steadily rises to every challenge, and though he plays but one match of the gloriously chaotic field game Quidditch, he does get in plenty of magic and a bit of swordplay on his way to becoming a hero again.

Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Harry's world by GrandPre's comic illustrations and Rowling's expert combination of broad boarding school farce and high fantasy. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: June 2, 1999

ISBN: 0-439-06486-4

Page Count: 341

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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