Young readers will laugh themselves silly.

BUCKLE AND SQUASH

THE PERILOUS PRINCESS PLOT

From the Buckle and Squash series , Vol. 1

Two sisters living in the Middle of Nowhere get involved in a dangerous plot in this debut fantasy from England.

Farm girl Lavender completely believes that she will marry a prince, trusting her book of fairy tales implicitly. Practical Eliza tends to the farm and their loyal but enigmatic goat, Gertrude. When Lavender decides to take her fate into her own hands and disguise herself as a princess, she is kidnapped by the minions of the evil Mordmont to hold for ransom. He believes Lavender is the real deal, and Lavender decides he must be the beast who will turn back into a handsome prince when she gives him True Love’s First Kiss. Eliza, riding Gertrude, tracks her down and tries to rescue her. However, the girls will have to contend with moat-dragons, especially mother dragon Violet. Courtauld goes wild with puns and humorous turns of phrase: “There was a pause. Then, there were some paws”; in order to escape Lavender’s singing, “[b]adgers started hitting each other over the head with rocks in order to make themselves deaf.” Most pages sport whimsical pencil drawings by the author, some using more puns, such as a drawing of a tree hung with underpants for “pantry.” It’s mayhem, with fart jokes, direct addresses to readers, gleefully ridiculous names, and more.

Young readers will laugh themselves silly. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05277-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Despite missteps, this satisfying follow-up will leave readers hoping for more magical adventures with lovable Jax and...

THE DRAGON THIEF

From the Dragons in a Bag series , Vol. 2

Jaxon and his friends deal with the fallout from the theft of one of the baby dragons in his charge.

As this sequel to Dragons in a Bag (2018) opens, Kavita, the titular dragon thief, introduces elderly Aunty to stolen baby dragon Mo. Thankfully, Aunty knows someone in Queens who can help return Mo to the realm of magic. Meanwhile, and in alternating first-person chapters, Jax is trying to find Kavi and Mo, as Mo’s siblings have grown ill as a result of the separation, as has Ma, Jax’s magical mentor and grandmother figure. Jax again teams up with his best friend and Kavi’s older brother, Vik. A third is added to their crew with “huge” Kenny, “the biggest kid in [their] class.” (Unfortunately, much is made of Kenny’s size, which feels gratuitous and unkind.) Eventually the trio finds Kavi, Aunty, and Mo, who’ve been abducted by a magical con artist. All’s well that ends well when Sis, the powerful guardian of the magic realm, shows up, but readers may wonder why the narrative decides to grapple with her choice not to intervene in injustice in our world. Her argument that human-caused problems are for humans to solve feels undeveloped, especially in the face of a massive injustice like the trans-Atlantic slave trade (mentioned during the climax and at no other point). Jax is black; Vik, Kavi, and Aunty are Indian American (though Aunty has African ancestry as well); and Kenny is white. The rest of the cast is diverse as well.

Despite missteps, this satisfying follow-up will leave readers hoping for more magical adventures with lovable Jax and company. (Urban fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7049-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more