A highly original, well-illustrated fairy tale/horror story.

THE SLUG QUEEN CHRONICLES

SEASON ONE

In Thomas’ (Fenlick Whiskbur, 2019, etc.) middle-grade series starter, a girl with a strange ability must complete a mission in a twisted and dangerous fantasy realm.

On her 12th birthday, Cricket Kane expects her dad, as always, to give her one gift from him and another that represents her mom, who died the day that Cricket was born. This year, however, he’s oddly reluctant to give her the second gift. It’s a journal that her mother kept from ages 8 to 13, and it contains her mom’s notes about seeing the same kinds of visions that Cricket does: strange trails of colored dust, wafting around people and things. Her mother, however, thought that the dust had “magical properties” and that “tooth fairies” and their leader, “the santa,” knew more about it. This may sound like a somewhat juvenile premise for the book’s middle school target audience, but Thomas provides a fairy-tale twist that’s as audacious as it is inventive—and a mite horrific, to boot. Under the santa’s direction, a spiderlike tooth fairy kidnaps Cricket’s baby brother. Only the girl can see the true appearance of the monstrous “slugwump” that the fairy left in the child’s place; the creature infects people with corrupting black dust, which turns them against Cricket. A catlike “cattawisp” confirms to her that “The santa you think you know is not the santa who is.” To rescue her brother, Cricket must travel to the source of the evil: Aeryland, formerly called “Fairyland.” Along the way, she faces danger, injury, and betrayal as she tries to master her own dust-driven powers. Thomas’ dark fantasyland is a page-turner that’s teeming with unusual creatures such as tooth fairies, aka “gibber snatches”; bloodsucking “hematoads”; ticklish “critterpuffs”; needle-toothed “buttersprites”; giant mountain rabbits; ghastly “gargolems” that turn living things to stone; and the aforementioned slugwumps, which are significant to the plot’s outcome. Debut artist Loeblich offers beautiful black-and-white pen-and-ink illustrations, which are set in delicate oval frames on textless pages; Cricket and her dad are shown as dark skinned; her stepmother and best friend appear white. The images also capture the strange landscapes and creepy creatures in intricate detail.

A highly original, well-illustrated fairy tale/horror story.

Pub Date: April 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-951406-06-6

Page Count: 402

Publisher: Ichigo Black Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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