There are hints that Ash may have unfinished business with India and its gods—let’s hope so.

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THE SAVAGE FORTRESS

This fantasy riffs on events from the Ramayana—the takeoff point for a knock-down, drag-out adventure that draws a 13-year-old into the unfinished business of the Indian gods. 

A Londoner visiting his uncle and aunt in India, Ash Mistry’s first mistake is picking up an ancient gold arrowhead that involves him and his younger sister Lucky in business left from India’s legendary past; his second mistake is refusing to surrender the ancient weapon  to the (very obvious) villain, Alexander Savage, and his rakshashas (demons). As is often true in fantasy quests, characters appear and disappear after helping or hindering the hero. The narrative arc is carried forward at first by the direct unfolding of Ash’s discovery and Savage’s hunt for the arrowhead. In addition, there are flashbacks that key readers in to Rama’s story. These provide vital information in a highly palatable way but also take some liberties with the original legend. A rousing and breathtaking climax supports the tied-up threads of the ending. Nonstop action and likable teen characters will attract fans of fantasy quests such as the Percy Jackson books and the saga of Nicholas Flamel.

There are hints that Ash may have unfinished business with India and its gods—let’s hope so. (Fantasy. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-38516-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Harry's world by GrandPre's comic illustrations and Rowling's expert combination of...

HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS

From the Harry Potter series , Vol. 2

This sequel to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998) brings back the doughty young wizard-in-training to face suspicious adults, hostile classmates, fretful ghosts, rambunctious spells, giant spiders, and even an avatar of Lord Voldemort, the evil sorcerer who killed his parents, while saving the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from a deadly, mysterious menace.

Ignoring a most peculiar warning, Harry kicks off his second year at Hogwarts after a dreadful summer with his hateful guardians, the Dursleys, and is instantly cast into a whirlwind of magical pranks and misadventures, culminating in a visit to the hidden cavern where his friend Ron's little sister Ginny lies, barely alive, in a trap set by his worst enemy. Surrounded by a grand mix of wise and inept faculty, sneering or loyal peers—plus an array of supernatural creatures including Nearly Headless Nick and a huge, serpentine basilisk—Harry steadily rises to every challenge, and though he plays but one match of the gloriously chaotic field game Quidditch, he does get in plenty of magic and a bit of swordplay on his way to becoming a hero again.

Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Harry's world by GrandPre's comic illustrations and Rowling's expert combination of broad boarding school farce and high fantasy. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: June 2, 1999

ISBN: 0-439-06486-4

Page Count: 341

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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