Now that Emily and her buddies have set up their new store and detective agency, readers looking for chapter books on the...

OPERATION BUNNY

THE FAIRY DETECTIVE AGENCY'S FIRST CASE

From the Wings & Co. series , Vol. 1

Emily, an unloved orphan, finds a new family and occupation when she discovers her true calling.

Emily Vole might only be 9, but she has lived quite a life. After being abandoned in a hatbox, she is adopted by the Dashwoods, a hedge fund manager and his social-climber wife. After the Dashwoods have triplets of their own, they force Emily into servitude. When she is rescued from her Cinderella life by her neighbor, Miss String, and a man-sized talking cat named Fidget, Emily’s life changes: She discovers that she is the new Keeper of the Keys. References to fairy tales add depth to the story and make a clever backdrop to this series kickoff, in which a Circe-like witch turns people into animals and lures fairies to their doom in a magical lamp. Roberts’ detailed, humorous black-and-white illustrations are a big step up from the normal chapter-book fare; the train station where Emily is discovered is dramatically drawn with crosshatched lines and a beam of light highlighting the hatbox, while later illustrations show Emily, with her wide, sad eyes, in the full squalor of her life with the Dashwoods.

Now that Emily and her buddies have set up their new store and detective agency, readers looking for chapter books on the long side will look forward to more magical cases. (Fantasy. 7-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9892-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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Worthy of every magical ounce.

CURSE OF THE NIGHT WITCH

From the Emblem Island series , Vol. 1

New Year’s Eve has finally arrived on Emblem Island, and for 12-year-old Tor Luna, it means an opportunity to wish away the leadership emblem he so deeply loathes.

Amid the annual festivities, Tor casts his wish to the wish-gods in hopes of a new emblem—a marker on one’s skin—that will grant him the power to become a water-breather, forsaking the leadership path forged by his Chieftess mother. Alas, his wish backfires when he awakens the next day cursed with a shorter lifeline instead. It’s the Night Witch’s mark, a black eye marked upon his skin. Now the young boy must travel across Emblem Island to confront the wicked Night Witch and reverse the curse. With two companions—Engle, his comically brave best friend, and Melda, an intelligent, cunning girl—Tor embarks on an adventure charted in The Book of Cuentos, a collection of folklore based on the various enchanting, cruel inhabitants—Emblemite and beast alike—of Emblem Island. Aster’s debut includes the fruitful elements of a riveting tale: lovable characters, thrilling heroics, and villainous fiends. What sets this series opener apart is the author’s exquisite use of real Latin American folktales to broaden her fiction, bolstering the particulars of the world she creates here. Pages from The Book of Cuentos fill the gaps between each chapter, providing island lore for flavor and context. Tightly paced, Tor’s adventure concludes with a promise of more to come.

Worthy of every magical ounce. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-9720-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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