A boy-turned-dinosaur excavates gratitude and humility in this appealing kids’ book.

THE WISHING STAR

In Salter’s debut children’s book, after a young boy doesn’t get what he wants for his birthday, he impulsively makes a wish that comes true.

Robbie is used to getting a “big gift”for his birthday, and this year he wantsan expensive mountain bike, but his father tells him they can’t afford it because he was laid off. On the eve of his 10th birthday, a whining Robbie sits in his room and flings his other gifts on the floor. He studies his poster of a menacing T. Rex, saying, “I bet you never begged for anything. You always got what you wanted.” At that moment, he looks out his window to see a falling star. The next morning, his father receives a call that he’s been rehired—and Robbie is overjoyed because he knows he’ll get his bike. He does, but on his first spin, he hits a log, blacks out and comes to only to find he’s become an apatosaurus. What’s more, Robbie can talk, as can Bronella, an adult apatosaurus who finds Robbie and helps him adjust to his new life. Robbie yearns for his life as a boy and realizes how much he took for granted: being with his loving parents and friends and devouring a regular diet of hamburgers and corn instead of hundreds of pounds of soggy swamp plants and berries. He spends his days foraging for food, hanging out with other talking dinosaurs and learning how to avoid becoming a meal for the terrifying tyrannosaur named Tyra, who lives nearby. The story turns when Tyra kills his friend Ana. Robbie concocts a plan to defeat her—which includes him acting as bait. Unfortunately, the description of the plan and construction of the trap goes on too long, breaking the story’s steady pace. Besides, readers may feel let down: Just when Tyra’s fate is about to be revealed, the story takes a jarring leap, and the critical moment is skipped over. Still, the story’s ending holds an intriguing twist, with a sequel on the horizon. With the lovely, detailed black-and-white illustrations accompanying the text, Salter does a fair job of working in the tricky business of anthropomorphism (the otherwise lifelike creatures show plenty of emotion on their faces). Also included is a helpful glossary of various types of dinosaurs.

A boy-turned-dinosaur excavates gratitude and humility in this appealing kids’ book.

Pub Date: March 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1491728628

Page Count: 130

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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