THE KING'S FIFTH

The theme of Conquistador betraying Indian, betraying his fellows and inevitably betraying himself, has been given no more powerful expression than in Newbery winner Scott O'Dell's second novel for young people. In the prison cell in Vera Cruz where he is being held for withholding the King's share of treasure, the "King's Fifth," young Esteban, the mapmaker, sets down all that has happened in order to discover its meaning; how he joined Mendoza's expedition to the famed Seven Cities of Cibola in order to have the honor of drawing the first maps of unknown regions; his friendship with Zia, the Indian girl guide "of the silver bells and silvery laughter"; the discovery of gold and the change that it brought in him; Mendoza's betrayal of Indian trust to gain the gold; and ultimately, after many hardships, his own abandonment of the gold and all it represents. As Esteban sets down his story, the trial progresses, day by day, until past and present become one. He comes to understand the corrupting power of greed; he understands too that strong bodies and strong wills often conceal weak spirits. The author uses the first person, near-diary form to heighten the immediate moment — the trial —and confer a documentary value on the retrospective narrative. And the ending eschews, in large measure, the contrived solution of many juveniles: Esteban is sentenced to three years' imprisonment by a court that could not have admitted error by exonerating him altogether. Unloose the adjectives for this one: a stunning novel of compelling interest and mounting impact.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1966

ISBN: 0618747834

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1966

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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HATCHET

A prototypical survival story: after an airplane crash, a 13-year-old city boy spends two months alone in the Canadian wilderness. In transit between his divorcing parents, Brian is the plane's only passenger. After casually showing him how to steer, the pilot has a heart attack and dies. In a breathtaking sequence, Brian maneuvers the plane for hours while he tries to think what to do, at last crashing as gently and levelly as he can manage into a lake. The plane sinks; all he has left is a hatchet, attached to his belt. His injuries prove painful but not fundamental. In time, he builds a shelter, experiments with berries, finds turtle eggs, starts a fire, makes a bow and arrow to catch fish and birds, and makes peace with the larger wildlife. He also battles despair and emerges more patient, prepared to learn from his mistakes—when a rogue moose attacks him and a fierce storm reminds him of his mortality, he's prepared to make repairs with philosophical persistence. His mixed feelings surprise him when the plane finally surfaces so that he can retrieve the survival pack; and then he's rescued. Plausible, taut, this is a spellbinding account. Paulsen's staccato, repetitive style conveys Brian's stress; his combination of third-person narrative with Brian's interior monologue pulls the reader into the story. Brian's angst over a terrible secret—he's seen his mother with another man—is undeveloped and doesn't contribute much, except as one item from his previous life that he sees in better perspective, as a result of his experience. High interest, not hard to read. A winner.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1987

ISBN: 1416925082

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1987

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