A unique fantasy world worth visiting, but not without first taking in the previous volume.

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THE OVERENDING

WOOD COW CHRONICLES, #2

In this second book of the fantasy Wood Cow Chronicles series, a group of rebels face a threat to their existence in a world populated solely by animals.

In many ways, Johnson’s series departs from derivative fantasy novels. All of the characters here, male and female, are animals; magic is absent; and the tasks the characters take on are often as ordinary as navigating a harsh landscape. There is, however, Fropperdaft, a supreme evil ruler, and in this second volume of the series, two main characters—Emil and PorNart—have escaped from his castle in a balloon. They stumble upon a group of rebels who have been secretly freeing slaves from a fortress prison and leading them to safety and freedom. However, the rebels’ existence is revealed to the tyrant Fropperdaft. He sets out to destroy them by unleashing overwhelming numbers of his armed minions. The rebels hatch a desperate plan to fight back, knowing that all they’ve worked for could be destroyed and that they could themselves be captured or killed. Johnson gets high marks for conceiving this unique world. Animals that one might expect to be good on Earth, such as cows, are good here, while those that seem nasty, like buzzards, also hold true to form, which will help readers make out the fantasy world. Unfortunately, the author provides little back story in this book, instead merely offering a few footnotes instructing readers to reference the first volume, Helga: Out of Hedgelands (2014), if they need some background. Names, references and events go whizzing by at breakneck speed, which may leave readers confused and frustrated.

A unique fantasy world worth visiting, but not without first taking in the previous volume.       

Pub Date: March 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-1497328686

Page Count: 284

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2014

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Uneven pacing and clunky writing undermine this examination of trauma and PTSD.

IF WE WERE GIANTS

Matthews, of the Dave Matthews Band, and co-author Smith offer a fantasy that explores the damage done by violence inflicted by one people against another.

Ten-year-old Kirra lives in an idyllic community hidden for generations inside a dormant volcano. When she and her little brother make unwise choices that help bring the violent, spindly, gray-skinned Takers to her community—with devastating results—Kirra feels responsible and leaves the volcano. Four years later, Kirra’s been adopted into a family of Tree Folk that live in the forest canopy. Though there are many Tree Folk, individual families care for their own and are politely distant from others. Kirra, suffering from (unnamed) PTSD, evades her traumatic memories by avoiding what she calls “Memory Traps,” but when the Takers arrive in the forest, she must face her trauma and attempt to make a community of the Tree Folk if they’re to survive. Although Kirra’s struggles through trauma are presented with sympathy and realistically rendered, some characters’ choices are so patently foolish they baldly read like the plot devices they are. Additionally, much preparation goes into one line of defense while other obvious factors are completely ignored, further pushing the story’s credibility. Kirra is brown skinned, as is her first family; Tree Folk appear not to be racially homogenous; and the Takers are all gray skinned.

Uneven pacing and clunky writing undermine this examination of trauma and PTSD. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-7871-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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THE BFG

Dahl's elemental fix on kids' consciousness gets this off to a surefire shivery start, with orphan Sophie, awake st the witching hour, snatched from her bed by a giant hand and carried off to a land of giants clear off the last page of the atlas. But Sophie's kidnapper is really friendly (hence BFG for Big Friendly Giant) and does not eat humans as she had feared, but occupies himself gathering and dispensing dreams. He also expresses himself in a mixed-up, cutesy manner that is simply tiresome. Nearby, however, are nine still-bigger giants who do eat humans ("I is a nice and jumbly giant" but "human beans is like strawbunkles and cream to those giants," says the BFG)—and it's to protect the world from them that Sophie and the BFG hatch a scheme: He will mix a dream from his collection and send it to the Queen of England to apprise her of the threat; then, when she awakens, Sophie will be on her windowsill, and the BFG waiting in the garden, to convince her that the dream is true. And so it is that we find Sophie and the BFG breakfasting with Her Majesty . . . and the BFG violating all decorum, even to letting fly a glumptious whizzpopper (kids would call it a fart). Nevertheless the Queen is impressed and sends off her military men, who, under the BFG's direction, rope the sleeping giants and haul them back by helicopter to be imprisoned in a giant pit. This is all told in Dahl's higgledy-piggledy home-made manner, which is rarely disarming here despite the pandering. And it's hard to find the bumble-tongued BFG endearing.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1982

ISBN: 0374304696

Page Count: 219

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1982

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