Although pacing is sometimes difficult, this tale offers all the other earmarks of fine storytelling, including colorful,...

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A SNICKER OF MAGIC

The protagonist of this debut joins a growing list of endearing young girls from the South, and it’s an extra bonus that her new best friend and mentor is a boy whose method of transportation, without fanfare, just happens to be a wheelchair.

Felicity Juniper Pickle, her little sister, Frannie Jo, and their dog, Biscuit, have once again been moved by their mother to a new town. This time they are moving in with Mama’s sister in Mama’s old hometown, Midnight Gulch, Tenn., which used to be renowned for its magic—the kind where people could “sing up thunderstorms and…dance up sunflowers.” Felicity, who has an uncanny ability for seeing and using written words but suffers from stage fright, wants to stay in Midnight Gulch. Her new friend, Jonah, with whom she performs anonymous acts of kindness, persuades Felicity to enter the Duel—a talent show in which her “weapon” will be her words. As the Duel approaches, Felicity and Jonah find themselves caught up in figuring out how to return the town’s magic and to reverse a curse from Felicity’s “balloon-riding, globe-trotting, curse-bearing great-great-grandfather” (surely homage to Holes).

Although pacing is sometimes difficult, this tale offers all the other earmarks of fine storytelling, including colorful, eccentric characters, an original, highly likable narrator and a mighty “spindiddly” plot. (Fantasy. 8-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-55270-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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