A truly #BlackGirlMagic, cloudy-day, curl-up kind of book.

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MAYA AND THE RISING DARK

From the Maya and the Rising Dark series , Vol. 1

Maya knows her father’s stories aren’t real—are they?

Maya, a comic-book–loving, anemic 12-year-old black girl, is suffering through situational math when she experiences a sudden, time-stopped moment when “the color bled from the world like someone was sucking it away through a straw.” That is not the only strange incident: Maya has an all-too-real dream of a man with skin “the color of the moon” and “pale violet eyes” who has the same color-sucking ability; her structural engineer papa literally disappears in front of her; and when she and her friends Frankie and Eli find themselves fighting shape-shifting darkbringers, Frankie discovers her own light-shooting skills. What Maya, Frankie, Eli, and readers find out from Maya’s mother is that Papa’s real identity is Elegguá, the most powerful of the West African orishas, guardian of the veil between this world and those of the darkbringers and other forces. Not only that, but Frankie’s newly found gift came from her late mother, who is also an orisha, and Eli is part orisha, too. The astonishing series of subsequent revelations leaves readers agog, eager to know how Maya and her pals will use their powers to heal the veil and save their mostly black and brown neighborhood. In her author’s note, Barron describes how this book has risen from her explorations of the traditions of her West African ancestors.

A truly #BlackGirlMagic, cloudy-day, curl-up kind of book. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-63518-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TERRIFYING RETURN OF TIPPY TINKLETROUSERS

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat,...

EXILE

From the Keeper of the Lost Cities series , Vol. 2

Full-blown middle-volume-itis leaves this continuation of the tale of a teenage elf who has been genetically modified for so-far undisclosed purposes dead in the water.

As the page count burgeons, significant plot developments slow to a trickle. Thirteen-year-old Sophie manifests yet more magical powers while going head-to-head with hostile members of the Lost Cities Council and her own adoptive elvin father, Grady, over whether the clandestine Black Swan cabal, her apparent creators and (in the previous episode) kidnappers, are allies or enemies. Messenger tries to lighten the tone by dressing Sophie and her classmates at the Hogwarts-ian Foxfire Academy as mastodons for a silly opening ceremony and by having her care for an alicorn—a winged unicorn so magnificent that even its poop sparkles. It’s not enough; two sad memorial services, a trip to a dreary underground prison, a rash of adult characters succumbing to mental breakdowns and a frequently weepy protagonist who is increasingly shunned as “the girl who was taken” give the tale a soggy texture. Also, despite several cryptic clues and a late attack by hooded figures, neither the identity nor the agenda of the Black Swan comes closer to being revealed.

However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat, much less under way. (Fantasy 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4596-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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