Though the events of the book are based on history and will be all too familiar to those who have lived through similar...


Three years after the fall of Saigon, 13-year-old Yen, her mother, and her four siblings are barely getting by in a small village on the Mekong Delta.

With little to eat and even littler hope of a better life under the oppressive Viet Cong government, Ma decides to flee from Vietnam with her five children. Yen and Ma sell their possessions and visit friends and family in preparation, encountering both the kindness and the hardness in people along the way. Debut author Tran-Davies does not shy away from the terrible realities of postwar Vietnam, including poverty, corruption, and violence, but the worst atrocities are alluded to with little detail. This may reduce trauma for readers without background knowledge, but the deliberate obfuscation results in choppy, sometimes confusing, narrative flow with uneven pacing. Packed into the last 30 or so pages is Yen’s entire flight out of Vietnam, her narration hurrying past such horrors as getting packed into the hold of a fishing boat for over a week with no food, a pirate attack that includes off-page rapes of several girls, and the capsizing of the boat and the drowning of countless refugees before the few survivors are rescued.

Though the events of the book are based on history and will be all too familiar to those who have lived through similar trauma, some may feel dissatisfied with the bleak narrative, which leaves much unexplained and very little hope. (afterword, glossary) (Historical fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-926890-33-3

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Tradewind Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.


In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.


From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Did you like this book?