Unfortunately, the artwork isn’t enough to save this book from itself

READ REVIEW

THE KINGDOM REVEALED

A reluctant young king escapes the confines of the palace to experience life in the surrounding city.

The boy delights in watching his subjects as they stroll through gardens and run to catch trains. He has his first taste of salt-and-vinegar chips. After a few days of wandering, penniless and sleeping in the rough, he decides to return home. But a man offers him some advice: “You grow up and become a man when you begin to put other people before yourself.” With that, the young king renames himself John, volunteers at a soup kitchen, and searches for meaning in his life. But what’s truly revealed in this second book of a trilogy that began with The Invisible Kingdom (2016) is that Ryan is far more accomplished as a visual artist than as a writer. The large-format book is gorgeously designed and illustrated with a mixture of the cut paper and screen printing that the British artist is known for. But the overlong text meanders through a meaningless plot cluttered with inane platitudes: “I never realised that life could feel as sweet as this”; “What a world!” Readers might be excused for skipping the text altogether just to thumb through the pages of matte-finished, heavy stock paper to appreciate the subtle coloring and shifting perspectives that capture city life. The king and other humans are depicted as silhouette cutouts, giving few clues to race or ethnicity, but his hair is straight.

Unfortunately, the artwork isn’t enough to save this book from itself . (Illustrated fiction. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-56656-063-4

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Crocodile/Interlink

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Sensitive subject matter that could have benefited from a subtler, more sober touch.

RESISTANCE

A Jewish girl joins up with Polish resistance groups to fight for her people against the evils of the Holocaust.

Chaya Lindner is forcibly separated from her family when they are consigned to the Jewish ghetto in Krakow. The 16-year-old is taken in by the leaders of Akiva, a fledgling Jewish resistance group that offers her the opportunity to become a courier, using her fair coloring to pass for Polish and sneak into ghettos to smuggle in supplies and information. Chaya’s missions quickly become more dangerous, taking her on a perilous journey from a disastrous mission in Krakow to the ghastly ghetto of Lodz and eventually to Warsaw to aid the Jews there in their gathering uprising inside the walls of the ghetto. Through it all, she is partnered with a secretive young girl whom she is reluctant to trust. The trajectory of the narrative skews toward the sensational, highlighting moments of resistance via cinematic action sequences but not pausing to linger on the emotional toll of the Holocaust’s atrocities. Younger readers without sufficient historical knowledge may not appreciate the gravity of the events depicted. The principal characters lack depth, and their actions and the situations they find themselves in often require too much suspension of disbelief to pass for realism.

Sensitive subject matter that could have benefited from a subtler, more sober touch. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-14847-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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A tear-jerker that fails to connect despite desperate effort.

THE INEVITABLE COLLISION OF BIRDIE & BASH

Tragedy hovers over a blossoming romance.

Brazilian-American Sebastian “Bash” Alvaréz is just trying to get by when he meets the nerdy, white Birdie Paxton. The two spark up some romantic fire, but disaster quickly strikes. Late one night, Bash and his ne’er-do-well pal “Wild” Kyle are driving erratically (Kyle is at the wheel) and slam right into Birdie’s baby brother, Benny. The boys flee the scene, while Benny slips into a coma and the town begins to hunt for the perpetrators of the hit-and-run. Bash keeps his secret from Birdie as they grow closer, and readers will roll their eyes at the excessive misery. The author gives Bash a dying mother to balance out the equation, but the choice overloads the devastation factor. With everything emotional and awful and crazy and turned up to 11, nothing really sticks out. The two moping, guilt-ridden protagonists are drawn well enough—they alternate narration—but seem to be stuck in a narrative hell bent on getting readers to cry. Secondary characters are poorly sketched, given no interior life, and merely activated to interact with Birdie and Bash. The novel’s end is disproportionately sunny and hopeful, giving readers tonal whiplash. A last-minute Hail Mary act gets the teens out of the narrative corner, but it feels spectacularly tacked-on.

A tear-jerker that fails to connect despite desperate effort. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-11622-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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