A series that began as a Wimpy Kid wannabe moves up to a cabin in first class.

TROLL OVERBOARD

From the Life of Zarf series , Vol. 3

Zarf, middle school troll, is tricked into a quest for magic beans that takes him into—and then out of—the belly of the beast. Blech.

There are pirates involved, too, not to mention monsters, a sea witch named Ursula (no relation to the one in Little Mermaid—really), and a friendly mer-pig. It all starts when royal classmate Prince Roquefort, justly dubbed a “little waste of oxygen,” persuades Zarf’s seagoing grandpa to take him on a short cruise. Suspicious, Zarf comes along. Indeed, it seems that the prince has concocted a scheme to recover the beans from Jack’s beanstalk, which had been dumped in the ocean as an anti-giant measure, and use their magic to make himself…taller. Disasters, of course, ensue as Zarf and the prince are temporarily swallowed by a finny monster, stranded on a small island with Zarf’s histrionic porcine buddy, and then captured by the somewhat-less-fearsome-than-advertised pirate Redbeard the Unapproachable. Harrell plugs cartoon line drawings of comically disgruntled or distraught figures into the narrative on nearly every page to deliver sly gags and punch lines while navigating the plot toward a bean-tastic battle with the outsized witch. The humans, a minority here, look white, though on the colored cover Zarf has light brown skin under a tuft of orange hair.

A series that began as a Wimpy Kid wannabe moves up to a cabin in first class. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4105-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.

A GIRL, A RACCOON, AND THE MIDNIGHT MOON

This is the way Pearl’s world ends: not with a bang but with a scream.

Pearl Moran was born in the Lancaster Avenue branch library and considers it more her home than the apartment she shares with her mother, the circulation librarian. When the head of the library’s beloved statue of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay is found to be missing, Pearl’s scream brings the entire neighborhood running. Thus ensues an enchanting plunge into the underbelly of a failing library and a city brimful of secrets. With the help of friends old, uncertainly developing, and new, Pearl must spin story after compelling story in hopes of saving what she loves most. Indeed, that love—of libraries, of books, and most of all of stories—suffuses the entire narrative. Literary references are peppered throughout (clarified with somewhat superfluous footnotes) in addition to a variety of tangential sidebars (the identity of whose writer becomes delightfully clear later on). Pearl is an odd but genuine narrator, possessed of a complex and emotional inner voice warring with a stridently stubborn outer one. An array of endearing supporting characters, coupled with a plot both grounded in stressful reality and uplifted by urban fantasy, lend the story its charm. Both the neighborhood and the library staff are robustly diverse. Pearl herself is biracial; her “long-gone father” was black and her mother is white. Bagley’s spot illustrations both reinforce this and add gentle humor.

The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.   (reading list) (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6952-1

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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The bird’s-eye view into this pivotal moment provides a powerful story, one that adults will applaud—but between the...

MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON

The ugly brutality of the Jim Crow South is recounted in dulcet, poetic tones, creating a harsh and fascinating blend.

Fact and fiction pair in the story of Rose Lee Carter, 13, as she copes with life in a racially divided world. It splits wide open when a 14-year-old boy from Chicago named Emmett Till goes missing. Jackson superbly blends the history into her narrative. The suffocating heat, oppression, and despair African-Americans experienced in 1955 Mississippi resonate. And the author effectively creates a protagonist with plenty of suffering all her own. Practically abandoned by her mother, Rose Lee is reviled in her own home for the darkness of her brown skin. The author ably captures the fear and dread of each day and excels when she shows the peril of blacks trying to assert their right to vote in the South, likely a foreign concept to today’s kids. Where the book fails, however, is in its overuse of descriptors and dialect and the near-sociopathic zeal of Rose Lee's grandmother Ma Pearl and her lighter-skinned cousin Queen. Ma Pearl is an emotionally remote tyrant who seems to derive glee from crushing Rose Lee's spirits. And Queen is so glib and self-centered she's almost a cartoon.

The bird’s-eye view into this pivotal moment provides a powerful story, one that adults will applaud—but between the avalanche of old-South homilies and Rose Lee’s relentlessly hopeless struggle, it may be a hard sell for younger readers. (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-78510-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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