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A brave, pacy book with some spellbinding history.

A sweeping historical fantasy for middle-grade readers.

Step back in time to a period when magic was part of the fabric of an undivided India that was still under British rule. Twelve-year-old Chompa is a witch, just like Ammi, her mother, though each of them wields magic very differently. Chompa’s powers are put to the test when her mother is kidnapped by the Company. She comes under the tutelage of Mohsin, her mother’s friend who arrives in response to Ammi’s letter about the impending threat. Unfortunately, he gets there too late; Ammi has just been taken away by boat. Chompa travels from her village to the big city of Dacca and then across the sea to London, dodging danger and making new friends along the way. Fortunately, she’s in the company of a motley crew of fellow magical children; magic itself is being threatened, and so are its wielders. Mischievous and memorable side characters, various djinn, and suitably evil villains all make for a fun read. The plot sags in the middle but picks up quickly. The author deftly weaves in themes of colonialism and racism to create an absorbing narrative about slavery, exploitation, and poverty, as she further explains in an author’s note that contains fascinating cultural context. Prabhat’s illustrations in the section openers and chapter headers are visual treats, inviting readers to linger and pore over the little nuggets tucked inside.

A brave, pacy book with some spellbinding history. (glossary) (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: May 28, 2024

ISBN: 9780241567487

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Puffin/Penguin Random House UK

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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Glitzy glimpses of life on the make, lightened by a focus on alternatives rather than consequences.

A con man’s son yearns for a different way of life.

Having helped his single dad fleece wealthy marks since kindergarten, Trey is adept at spotting their rich offspring in each new school he attends and cultivating them until the time comes for a quick getaway. Now that he’s 12, though, the urge to make real friends and put down some roots has become insistent—particularly since he’s drawn to Kaylee, a new classmate in his latest middle school. How can he convince his dad, who’s in the midst of luring local investors into a fantastically lucrative scheme involving a fictive electric car, that it’s time to bag the family profession and settle down? Korman goes more for ironic humor than the physical or stand-up sort in this book, as shown by Trey’s enrollment in an ethics class that forces him into some decidedly hypocritical stances. Much like Trey himself, instant new bestie Logan and his parents turn out to be not at all who they seem. And though there are no bullies or real baddies in the cast on the way to the story’s rosy but implausible resolution, Trey’s malign, high-strung, and wildly reckless huckster of a little sister from hell definitely adds both conflict and suspense to this provocative outing. Main characters read white.

Glitzy glimpses of life on the make, lightened by a focus on alternatives rather than consequences. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781338826753

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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