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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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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