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THE FLIGHT OF SWANS

An imaginative retelling with an unforgettable heroine.

Twelve-year-old Princess Andaryn will do anything to save her father, her six older brothers, and her kingdom from her father’s new “witch-wife,” even if it means her silence.

Her father hasn’t been the same since he was lost in the forest and then rescued by the imperious woman he then married. Once kind and attentive, he is now distracted; once gentle and just, he now permits brutal, capricious punishments. When the queen threatens to kill her brothers, Ryn bargains for their lives. She agrees to remain silent for six years while her brothers are changed into swans. Rather than stay at the castle to be tormented, Ryn flees, fakes her own death, and disappears into the countryside. There, she seeks the help of the queen’s mentor, a strange, addled old woman living in the midst of a nettle bush. She learns that the only way to break the spell is to fashion tunics made of nettles for each of her brothers. Relentlessly pursued by Otherworldly creatures drawn from the Great Hunt, Ryn is forced to stay on the move. She is soon joined by a hen, her sister-in-law, and later by her baby nephew, but it is not until she meets a ruler from another land that she begins to turn her eyes toward home again. Ryn is depicted as white on the cover; diversity in this Europe-esque fantasy land is limited to magical creatures. This imaginative retelling of a familiar Brothers Grimm story is filled with magic, romance, and peril, but where it shines is in the quiet moments. Ryn’s strength, love, and sacrifice make her heroic, but her fear, fatigue, and insecurity make her human.

An imaginative retelling with an unforgettable heroine. (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5124-4027-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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