PATH OF THE PALE HORSE

The 1793 adventure of Lep, short for Asclepius, a devoted doctor's apprentice who goes to bed with his Materia Medica. Traveling overnight to Philadelphia when that city is in the grip of a yellow fever epidemic, Lep and Dr. Poole plan to purchase medicines and return home. But the two become separated and end up lodged in different homes: Dr. Poole with Mrs. Uffington, a disagreeable woman who misuses her servants, and Lep with Mr. Tweakfield, a kindly man who is being cheated by his servants. Lep's sister Clara is also in Philadelphia, working for a man who sells "electric" rings to ward off the fever; and Lep, charged by his mother to bring her home, must convince her that her employer is a charlatan and an impostor. But Lep, who scorns fraudulent and superstitious medicines, has the utmost faith in medical science, and is filled with idealistic excitement when Dr. Poole decides to stay and fight the fever. An early success encourages Lep's faith in his own powers as well, but when Mr. Tweakfield expires of the fever despite Lep's fervent ministrations, he learns something of Dr. Poole's humility. Lep's Philadelphia encounters are neatly interconnected variations on the theme of fraud, faith, and science; Mr. Tweakfield's treacherous servants and Clara's escape from her oily employer keep the plot perking; and Fleischman's period tone and narrative artifice assure the comforts of a tale well told.

Pub Date: April 13, 1983

ISBN: 0064404420

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1983

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

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

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HATCHET

A prototypical survival story: after an airplane crash, a 13-year-old city boy spends two months alone in the Canadian wilderness. In transit between his divorcing parents, Brian is the plane's only passenger. After casually showing him how to steer, the pilot has a heart attack and dies. In a breathtaking sequence, Brian maneuvers the plane for hours while he tries to think what to do, at last crashing as gently and levelly as he can manage into a lake. The plane sinks; all he has left is a hatchet, attached to his belt. His injuries prove painful but not fundamental. In time, he builds a shelter, experiments with berries, finds turtle eggs, starts a fire, makes a bow and arrow to catch fish and birds, and makes peace with the larger wildlife. He also battles despair and emerges more patient, prepared to learn from his mistakes—when a rogue moose attacks him and a fierce storm reminds him of his mortality, he's prepared to make repairs with philosophical persistence. His mixed feelings surprise him when the plane finally surfaces so that he can retrieve the survival pack; and then he's rescued. Plausible, taut, this is a spellbinding account. Paulsen's staccato, repetitive style conveys Brian's stress; his combination of third-person narrative with Brian's interior monologue pulls the reader into the story. Brian's angst over a terrible secret—he's seen his mother with another man—is undeveloped and doesn't contribute much, except as one item from his previous life that he sees in better perspective, as a result of his experience. High interest, not hard to read. A winner.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1987

ISBN: 1416925082

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1987

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