From the MiddleGate series , Vol. 3

A sublime cast headlines this leisurely but engrossing supernatural tale.

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In this third installment of a middle-grade series, two cousins want to protect the balance between their magical realm and the ordinary world.

Young Wil Wychwood and his cousin Sophie Isidor are starting their second year at an academy for magic. The tweens are used to witnessing amazing abilities in their “magical city” of MiddleGate and have even confronted a formidable villain. But lately, they’re seeing fish everywhere, from stone fish to a smelly book about fish that Peeping Peerslie, the library’s resident ghost, saved for Wil over the summer. This takes on a deeper meaning when a strange woman calling herself Catfysh appears before the cousins with a cryptic warning—the Serpent’s Chain somehow threatens the magical and nonmagical worlds alike. That’s an ancient secret society that Wil knows all too well, as the group, for whatever reason, craves the black medallion his grandmother left him. Wil and Sophie want to help even if they aren’t sure what exactly Catfysh wishes them to do. Solving a riddle may lead them to the subaqueous “Fyshly Realm,” where they hope to find answers. Bridgman’s measured tale puts vibrant and relatable characters in a supernatural city. For example, Wil’s Aunt Violet excitedly works toward opening her fortunetelling store, and conversation at a friends’ home that the cousins visit revolves around magic and what time dinner starts. These interactions take precedence over a discernible baddie and the young heroes’ feelings of urgency. Fish-related elements, meanwhile, are deliberately murky along with largely mysterious carry-overs from earlier books, including the Serpent’s Chain, the black medallion, and Wil’s inherited gold ring. While clarification is minimal, the final act spins off into Wil and Sophie’s otherworldly experience with the Fysh. Throughout the novel, Bridgman describes aquatic creatures in beautiful detail, from multihued bodies and spiny fins to a bevy of “whiskers” (barbels). This engaging volume ends with an unmistakable setup for the next installment.

A sublime cast headlines this leisurely but engrossing supernatural tale.

Pub Date: July 5, 2021

ISBN: 9781525585814

Page Count: 228

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2022


An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020


From the Yeti Files series , Vol. 1

Good-hearted fun—great for fans of Kit Feeny and Babymouse.

It’s a Bigfeet family reunion!

Everyone’s favorite frosty, furry cryptid, the yeti, actually has a name: Blizz Richards. From his supersecret HQ in Nepal he keeps in touch with his fellow cryptids, all of whom have sworn an oath to keep themselves hidden. That’s not always easy, especially when there are cryptozoologists, like the nasty (but bumbling) George Vanquist, who are always trying to expose the secretive creatures. Vanquist got a picture of Blizz’s cousin Brian near his home in British Columbia, causing the mortified Brian to disappear entirely. When Blizz receives an invitation to a Bigfeet family reunion in Canada, he calls his buddies Alexander (one of Santa’s elves), Gunthar (a goblin) and Frank the Arctic fox to help him get ready. When they arrive in Canada, Brian is still nowhere to be seen. Can Blizz and his skunk ape and other sasquatch cousins find Brian, have the reunion and evade Vanquist? If anyone can, the Bigfeet clan can. Illustrator Sherry’s first volume in the Yeti Files is a fast and funny graphic-prose tale full of labeled pictures and comic-style panels. Those just starting chapter books may have some trouble with a few big words, but they’ll enjoy the big friendly monsters and immediately ask for the next tale—which looks to be about the Loch Ness monster.

Good-hearted fun—great for fans of Kit Feeny and Babymouse. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-55617-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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