Action, sea creatures, and a mermaid make this thoughtful adventure a delight.

SORAYA AND THE MERMAID

Misfit Soraya must help a mermaid escape the aquarium without being seen in this series opener.

Fourth grader Soraya’s idol is comic-book hero Nimbla Moony. Her mom wants her to make real friends, but her classmates think she’s weird because of the things she says (often inspired by Nimbla Moony’s adventures). During a field trip to the aquarium, Soraya wanders off and is surprised to spot a human face amid the coral in the Ocean Journey exhibit. Even more shocking is when the face turns out to belong to a mermaid named Estelle, asking for help. Accidentally captured by fishing nets, Estelle needs Soraya’s help getting back to her ocean kingdom. With the help of the aquarium animals, Soraya must be brave like Nimbla Moony and get Estelle out of the crowded building without anyone seeing her. In the process, Soraya and Estelle discover they have an astonishing amount in common despite their dissimilarities. Alikhan pens a sweet story of a forming friendship and how there are positives to being different. Themes of an absent parent and selflessness are also present. Sohrabi’s bright, colorful, full-page illustrations are sprinkled through the 10 short chapters, with Soraya’s comic about the adventure, illustrated by Naalchigar, at the end. Soraya has pale skin and straight, black hair, and she explains her name is Persian. Estelle has brown skin, long, curly black hair, and dark eyes.

Action, sea creatures, and a mermaid make this thoughtful adventure a delight. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4788-6815-6

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Reycraft Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after.

RISE OF THE EARTH DRAGON

From the Dragon Masters series , Vol. 1

Drake has been selected by the king to serve as a Dragon Master, quite a change for an 8-year-old farmer boy.

The dragons are a secret, and the reason King Roland has them is a mystery, but what is clear is that the Dragon Stone has identified Drake as one of the rare few children who have a special connection with dragons and the ability to serve as a trainer. Drake’s dragon is a long brown creature with, at first, no particular talents that Drake can identify. He calls the dragon Worm. It isn’t long before Drake begins to realize he has a very strong connection with Worm and can share what seem to be his dragon’s thoughts. After one of the other Dragon Masters decides to illicitly take the dragons outside, disaster strikes. The cave they are passing through collapses, blocking the passageway, and then Worm’s special talent becomes evident. The first of a new series of early chapter books, this entry is sure to attract fans. Brief chapters, large print, lots of action, attractive illustrations in every spread, including a maplike panorama, an enviable protagonist—who wouldn’t want to be a Dragon Master?—all combine to make an entertaining read.

With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-64624-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

THE MYSTERIOUS MESSENGER

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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