Well-worn character types and plot devices may earn the first juvenile title in Amazon’s new line of imports a little traction with fans of Cornelia Funke’s mysteries. Quintessentially meek orphan Darius Dorian looks upon an assignment to shadow violin-maker Archibald Archinola for two weeks as a welcome chance to escape his orphanage roommate’s bullying. Then Darius discovers that plucking a certain old violin in Archinola’s shop causes any wound or illness to disappear. He steals the violin and is subsequently kidnapped by a doltish con man and his termagant mother, who force his assistance as they set themselves up as miracle healers. Along with a relentlessly two-dimensional bully, Reh trots in a supporting cast led by Darius’ new Asian friend Mey-Mey (“the outer corners of her eyes bend upwards like the corners of a smiling mouth”), sets up a budding romance between the stuffy-but-decent Archinola and a local jeweler and ultimately sends the con artists packing. Despite potentially confusing bits—from repeatedly-mentioned “brown patches” on Mey-Mey’s neck and hand that turn out to be calluses rather than birthmarks to everyone’s sudden and inexplicable loss of interest in the violin’s magic at the end—the tale’s steady predictability will keep less-demanding readers engaged. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-61109-004-8

Page Count: 132

Publisher: Amazon Crossing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2011

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The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.


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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Fans of mythology-based fantasies will devour this adventure and anxiously await the next installment.


Abby is your average 12-year-old North Carolinian—and Viking.

She has been eager for years to follow in her mother's footsteps as an Aesir, or Viking warrior charged with protecting the world from Grendels, descendants of the same monster faced down by Beowulf. Still reeling from her mother’s death four years ago, Abby is worried because she hasn’t developed the unusual abilities needed by Aesirs. After she is attacked at home, she and her father head to Vale Hall, an elite Minnesota private school her mother also attended. Along the way they are attacked again, and her father falls into a mysterious coma. Abby is positive a Grendel is after her, but the Viking council at Vale Hall doesn't believe her. She quickly befriends Grimsby and Gwynn, each with their own burdens and secrets. Together they try to find a cure for her father, in the process uncovering secrets from her mother's past and discovering some truths hiding at Vale Hall. This entertaining debut novel seamlessly blends Norse mythology with a modern-day setting to tell an action-packed and humorous story. In addition, the book explores grief, growing up, and starting over with sensitivity and insight. Abby and most other characters are cued as White; Gwynn is described as Asian American.

Fans of mythology-based fantasies will devour this adventure and anxiously await the next installment. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-63607-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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