MATILDA

After some autobiographical excursions, Dahl here returns to the sort of whimsically grotesque fantasy that makes grown-ups wince and children beg for more. His heroine is five-year-old Matilda, a genius whose mathematical abilities, as well as her impressive reading list (Hemingway, Steinbeck, etc.), are totally unappreciated by her father—a dishonest used-car salesman—and her mother, a devotee of bingo and TV soaps. Only when the girl enters school does she find an understanding ally, Miss Honey, a paragon of virtue who attempts to defend her pupils against unbelievably cruel headmistress Miss Trunchbull, who hates children in direct proportion to their youth and tortures them accordingly. Just when things seem to be at their worst, Matilda discovers still another gift, telekinesis, enabling her to defeat the horrible Trunchbull and give Miss Honey, and herself, a new start. Dahl's tightly woven plots, his strict sense of absolute justice, and his raunchy "funny bits" make him popular with children who also appreciate the empowerment he grants to his smaller, weaker protagonists. Matilda is the most simplistic of his efforts in this direction, but it does retain the time-honored appeal, abetted by Blake's apt illustrations. It probably should be marked "For Children Only," though. And Dahl slips badly when he says that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien have no "funny bits" in their books.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1988

ISBN: 0142410373

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1988

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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