EVEN AND ODD

Two sisters gain new appreciation for magical abilities and ordinary wits—but only after they utilize both in an unexpected heroic quest.

Living in a mundane Connecticut town near the gateway to magical Firoth, Emma and Olivia, aka Even and Odd, are unusual among magical beings. They share their magic, each possessing it on alternate days (thus, their nicknames). Even eagerly practices her magic, hoping to heroically protect the magic world from danger. Odd is less disciplined, preferring everyday pleasures like volunteering at the animal shelter. After some uncomfortable, even odiferous, magical mishaps, they learn that the gateway is malfunctioning. When they investigate along with Jeremy, a flighty, talkative unicorn, they get stuck in Firoth, where they find entire hills and lakes have shifted, endangering many animal species—the collateral damage of Lady Vell, a villain who is extracting magic to fuel her inventions. As they journey through the land—on a yellow brick road, no less—they meet many colorful characters. But to right things, the threesome must depend on their own strengths, learning much about themselves and the workings of Firoth in the process. They each embrace skills they previously undervalued: for Even, ordinary smarts; for Odd, magical practice. The pace is brisk; the rapport between the default White sisters is charming; and central themes, while familiar, are handled with great originality. Humor abounds as Jeremy provides comic relief.

Whimsical fun. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-35038-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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