An excellent melding of horror and heart, this complex story will appeal to a wide range of readers.

SPELL & SPINDLE

The boundaries between puppet and person blur and break in this fairy-tale–inspired middle-grade novel.

Chance, 11 years old and “a natural-born pessimist,” loves volunteering at the Museum of the Peculiar Arts. But his white, upwardly mobile family is moving to a suburban horrorscape of “identical houses, all curved upward like bland smiles,” and the museum is shuttering in the city’s post–World War II boom. Fortunato, the museum’s owner, reluctantly lets Chance take a mannequin named Penny, who is just about Chance’s height, exquisitely carved out of walnut, and conscious during every moment of her inanimate existence. When Chance touches the strange silvery strings that control Penny’s limbs, he hears her voice in his head, and this discovery launches Chance, Penny, and his big sister, Constance, on a high-stakes, dangerous adventure of soul-thievery and mystical portals. The beautifully creepy plot deftly weaves together old-time–y fears with fresh outlooks through richly realized characters who feel immediate and modern despite the 1952 setting. Especially well done is the approach to gender, as Chance, Penny, and Constance all struggle with different realities of embodiment and expression without resorting to cheap sentiment or heavy-handedness.

An excellent melding of horror and heart, this complex story will appeal to a wide range of readers. (Fantasy. 8-14)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-55070-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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Rescues and kittens by the carload, with a bit of inner growth on the side.

BASTILLE VS. THE EVIL LIBRARIANS

From the Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians series , Vol. 6

Previous prognostications of failure and doom notwithstanding, this bustling entry features miraculous survivals and just deserts for the biblio-baddies.

Switching narrators in the wake of devastating deeds at the end of The Dark Talent (2016), the co-authors pick up the action with stern, stab-happy Bastille describing her rescue of traumatized Alcatraz Smedry from a Library of Congress that is filling up with lava, then a desperate effort to keep ultra-evil librarian Biblioden the Scrivener from forcing the world’s remaining Free Kingdoms to check themselves out permanently. Despite her own forewarnings of a disastrous ending and stern suggestion to start with Volume 1 for the backstory, she does fill in enough of what’s going on for readers to keep pace—and in characteristically take-no-prisoners tones, lays out a rip-roaring tale in which she fulfills her role as Alcatraz’s protector with plenty of brisk (if bloodless) sword work and an unshakeable loyalty that, along with the occasional punch, draws him out of a paralyzing slough of guilt and self-loathing. A climactic battle features a horde of bloodthirsty kittens and a ravenous, punning monster—followed by hints that surviving librarians may be taking up worthier missions and, since Bastille insists on the veracity of this account, credible reasons why people the world around have talents for being late, breaking things, and like peccadillos. Most of the heroically posed figures in Lazo’s realistically modeled illustrations are light-skinned.

Rescues and kittens by the carload, with a bit of inner growth on the side. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-25-081106-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.

LEGACY AND THE DOUBLE

From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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