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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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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Well paced and witty.

CITY OF THE PLAGUE GOD

Thirteen-year-old Iraqi American Sikander Aziz must stop the ancient Mesopotamian plague god Nergal from raining destruction and pestilence on New York City.

After the death of his older brother, Mo, who died during a trip to Iraq, Sik has been working in his refugee parents’ New York deli nonstop, trying to stymie his grief. But when Nergal and his minions trash the deli while seeking a stolen treasure, they start a plague that infects Sik’s parents and threatens all of New York. Teaming up with the goddess Ishtar; her sword-wielding adoptive daughter, Belet; and Mo’s frequently typecast aspiring actor best friend, Daoud, they must find a way to stop Nergal and cure New York’s residents in an epic adventure worthy of Gilgamesh. Chadda brings attention to the less well-recognized mythology of ancient Mesopotamia with engaging humor and wit. Dialogue between characters, most of whom are Iraqi and Iraqi American, allows exploration of heavier topics of Islamophobia, anti-Arabism, and terrorist and Orientalist tropes to be inserted with ease. The Aziz family and Daoud are Muslims; Chadda navigates the difficult line of reconciling the depiction of characters interacting with multiple gods with the fundamental Muslim belief in one God both in the text and the backmatter. Daoud and Mo are alluded to being gay and having been in love.

Well paced and witty. (author's note, glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-05150-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents/Disney

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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