HENGE

LE FAY SERIES

In this YA fantasy novel set in a modern-day Camelot, a 16-year-old Morgan Le Fay vies to become the next king’s magical protector and guide—if she can beat Merlin.
Morgan can’t resist defying her father and entering the televised tryouts for Arthur’s Round, an elite group of Camelot-based magic users that helps protect Great Britain. She also has a secret to hide: Her mother, Morgause, was executed by Mordred, the current King’s Maven (an odd Yiddish term in this Arthurian world). She desperately wants to become Maven herself, and there’s only one tryout per generation. Morgan goes home without a medal after officials discover her fake magic user’s license, but despite this, she finds herself accepted into Arthur’s Round. During nine months of boarding school classes and training, Morgan rubs elbows with Merlin and other figures, such as Guinevere, Vivian and Lancelot, while dodging suspicious outbreaks of fire and flood. As she undergoes various trials of her abilities, she must make sense of her past and decide whom to trust; much more is going on, it would seem, than the teenage narrator realizes. This novel, written in a first-person, present-tense narrative style, uses many other common tropes of YA fiction: a scrappy but painfully self-conscious young heroine with special gifts who’s in danger; a magical boarding school; mean kids and lying adults. The elements of Arthurian legend, too, are familiar. However, Lovejoy (Clan, 2013) mixes up tradition for her own uses, beginning with her daring choice to make the legendary evil sorceress Morgan Le Fay a young, sympathetic hero. Morgan’s adolescent angst, though well accounted for, can become tiresome, and readers may become a little impatient with her tendency to fly off the handle and jump to conclusions. Nonetheless, Lovejoy describes magic with vivid immediacy and updates Camelot well for the 21st century, bringing in political intrigue that makes sense on both mundane and magical levels.

Camelot meets Hogwarts meets Panem in this intriguing, well-written beginning to a planned YA series.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2014

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE

Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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