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



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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

Did you like this book?