Like Ralwil’s craft, this doesn’t fly

SUMMER ON EARTH

Ralwil Turth, an intergalactic space being, has crash-landed on Earth.

After a quick study of humans, Ralwil shape-shifts his alien body into a human one in hopes of blending in while he works to repair his spacecraft. The crash site is a family farm where Ralwil, now in white, adult, male, human form, befriends white 11-year-old Grady Johnson and his widowed mother, staying on in exchange for help on the farm. Realizing the family is struggling to make ends meet, Ralwil takes the DNA from a $20 bill and engineers a fast-growing money tree that he plants on the farm. The spending spree that follows alerts the local banker, who has befriended Ma with the ulterior motive of repossessing the house to sell off at a profit. This slow-moving tale does not rise above its clichéd premise. Though there is a sympathetic tone for the widow and her children, this book is wrought with structural issues, and the time period is unclear (the mention of Star Wars on a movie theater’s marquee narrows it down to the past 40 years or so). The continuity becomes fragmented as previously consistently alternating chapters from Ralwil’s and Grady’s third-person perspectives are suddenly interrupted with new, adult characters’ chapters, a jarring shift that calls the book’s audience into question. Important details are left unaddressed, especially at what is supposed to be the climax.

Like Ralwil’s craft, this doesn’t fly . (Science fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943978-30-4

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Persnickety Press

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes.

THE TOWER OF NERO

From the Trials of Apollo series , Vol. 5

In this tumultuous series closer, Apollo, transformed into a mortal teenager, takes on both a deified emperor in a luxurious Manhattan high-rise and an older adversary.

Lester/Apollo’s coast-to-coast quest reaches its climactic stage as, with help from both eager squads of fledgling demigods from Camp Half-Blood and reluctant allies from realms deep below New York, he invades the palatial lair of Emperor Nero—followed by a solo bout with another foe from a past struggle. Riordan lays on the transformation of the heedless, arrogant sun god to a repentant lover of his long-neglected semidivine offspring and of humanity in general, which has served as the series’ binding theme, thickly enough to have his humbled narrator even apologizing (twice!) to his underwear for having to change it periodically. Still, the author delivers a fast, action-driven plot with high stakes, lots of fighting, and occasional splashes of gore brightened by banter and silly bits, so readers aren’t likely to mind all the hand-wringing. He also leaves any real-life parallels to the slick, megalomaniacal, emotionally abusive Nero entirely up to readers to discern and dishes out just deserts all round, neatly tying up loose ends in a set of closing vignettes. The supporting cast is predominantly White, with passing mention of diverse representation.

A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes. (glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4645-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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