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From the His Dark Materials series

Pullman in any mood is worth catching, though this is about as slight as he gets.

In an episode set shortly after the end of The Amber Spyglass (2000), Pullman sends Lyra Silvertongue back to the town of Trollesund for an illuminating chat.

Originally written for a charity fundraiser in 2004 and dusted off at last for general release, the brief tale is extended by a surfeit of somber black-and-white prints that, with help from wide line leading and spacious margins, bring the compact volume’s page count to a respectable level. The quickly told story feels tucked in amid views of remote figures and empty streets, mingling with straight filler and pictures of sinuous daemons and people with distant expressions posed in various static configurations. It’s built around a conversation between Lyra and the enigmatic Dr. Lanselius, consul for the witch clans, in which Lyra wrestles with how the knowledge that she and Pan can separate and have experiences of their own may come to change their relationship. As the author points out in his afterword, just such a profound change plays a prominent role in The Secret Commonwealth (2019)…and so Lyra’s troubled reach for understanding here prefigured it. If this catches Pullman in a ruminative mood, unlike the earlier spinoff Once Upon a Time in the North (2008), illustrated by John Lawrence, which is an action-oriented minimasterpiece, still there are references aplenty to past events and lively interchanges between Pan and Lyra to keep less-introspective fans from flagging.

Pullman in any mood is worth catching, though this is about as slight as he gets. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-37768-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2020

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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