FLOW

A city ruled by a large number of powerful magical guilds is nearly torn apart from within due to the actions of a corrupt mayor in Benaroch’s (A Guide to Getting the Best Health Care for Your Child, 2007, etc.) debut work of fiction.

Not simply the title, “Flow” is also the word the characters in Benaroch’s story use to define magic itself. Not unlike the concept of “The Force” in Star Wars, Flow refers to invisible strings of power that ripple throughout the world and bind it together. Representatives of the magical academies test all young children for the ability to interact with and manipulate Flow. Those who test positive are taken from their parents to be trained in sorcery, which is known as “woodcraft.” After years of arduous training, those who don’t flunk out must choose a Guild that best complements their particular strengths. Meanwhile, the mayor is trying to secretly consolidate power into her own hands by setting the Guilds against one another. Her plan is threatened by the unprecedented emergence of a number of people who discover that they can work magic on their own, outside of the Guilds. Benaroch’s fantasy is rich with imaginative detail and strong prose, and a number of creative characteristics (such as magical, anthropomorphized boxes known as “kitties,” and the mayor’s imposing security force, the Tinies) distinguish this novel from other similar tales. The author makes liberal use of satire and dark comedy, as the absurdities of this fictional society humorously comment on our own world’s impenetrable bureaucracies. Unfortunately, the characters aren’t nearly as well developed as the world they inhabit. The villain’s motivations remain murky at best. Benaroch does, however, manage to capture the alienation the magical characters experience quite beautifully, instilling the narrative with a thoughtful and much-needed human touch. Benaroch’s tightly plotted novel presents an expertly crafted world that avid fantasy readers should find rewarding, and its blend of suspense and humor will attract neophytes, as well.

 

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 182

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2012

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Penfold and Kaufman have outdone themselves in delivering a vital message in today’s political climate. Let’s hope more...

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ALL ARE WELCOME

A lively city school celebrates its diversity.

Front endpapers show adult caregivers walking their charges to school, the families a delightful mix that includes interracial, same-sex, and heterosexual couples as well as single caregivers; the rear endpapers assemble them again at the conclusion of a successful schoolwide evening potluck. In between, the rhyming verses focus on aspects of a typical school day, always ending with the titular phrase: “Time for lunch—what a spread! / A dozen different kinds of bread. / Pass it around till everyone’s fed. / All are welcome here.” Indeed, this school is diversity exemplified. Several kids point to their home countries on a world map, and some wear markers of their cultural or religious groups: There’s a girl in hijab, a boy wearing a Sikh patka, and a boy in a kippah. A rainbow of hair colors and skin tones is in evidence, and children with disabilities are also included: a blind boy, a girl in a wheelchair, and several kids with glasses. What is most wonderful, though, is the way they interact with one another without regard to their many differences. Kaufman’s acrylic, ink, crayon, collage, and Photoshop illustrations bring the many personalities in this school community to life. “You have a place here. / You have a space here. / You are welcome here.”

Penfold and Kaufman have outdone themselves in delivering a vital message in today’s political climate. Let’s hope more people, starting with this picture book’s audience, embrace it. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-57964-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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