Complicated, retrograde, and very sparkly.

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SAGE AND THE JOURNEY TO WISHWORLD

From the Star Darlings series , Vol. 1

A new student at the academy for Wish-Granters joins a specially selected group for secret missions.

After opening pages consisting of short profiles of the 12 students that the series will follow, the story begins with Sage’s arrival at Starling Academy, the prestigious school where Starlings learn to travel to the Wishworld (implied Earth) to harness positive energy by granting Wishlings’ wishes. Further exposition (clumsily framed with “As every Starling knows,” “As we all know,” and “As everyone knows”) attempts to explain the elaborate wish mechanics. During orientation, Sage is selected with 11 others for a secret meeting. The headmistress tells them about Starland’s energy crisis and that she’s experimenting with sending student visitors to Wishworld in an attempt to drastically increase the levels of positive energy. She has selected this group of students to be the Star Darlings. The already-convoluted world’s mechanics further complicate with the revelation of a prophecy. Soon Sage gets the honor of the first trip to Wishworld to fulfill a wish, which is difficult, as she must correctly identify both the wisher and the specific wish. Humor arises from her incomplete education on Wishworld culture and tension, from the mission’s near-failure. While some readers will appreciate the constant clothing descriptions and glittery references, many will be left cold by the heroine’s insistence that science and math are boring.

Complicated, retrograde, and very sparkly. (Fantasy. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4231-6643-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Disney Press

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action.

THE SILVER ARROW

The best birthday present is a magical train full of talking animals—and a new job.

On Kate’s 11th birthday, she’s surprised by the arrival of rich Uncle Herbert. Uncle Herbert bears a gift: a train. Not a toy train, a 102.36-ton steam engine, with cars that come later. When Kate and her brother, Tom, both white, play in the cab of the Silver Arrow, the train starts up, zooming to a platform packed with animals holding tickets. Thus begins Kate and Tom’s hard work: They learn to conduct the train and feed the fire box, instructed by the Silver Arrow, which speaks via printed paper tape. The Silver Arrow is a glorious playground: The library car is chockablock with books while the candy car is brimful of gobstoppers and gummy bears. But amid the excitement of whistle-blowing and train conducting, Kate and Tom learn quiet messages from their animal friends. Some species, like gray squirrels and starlings, are “invaders.” The too-thin polar bear’s train platform has melted, leaving it almost drowned. Their new calling is more than just feeding the coal box—they need to find a new balance in a damaged world. “Feeling guilty doesn’t help anything,” the mamba tells them. Humans have survived so effectively they’ve taken over the world; now, he says, “you just have to take care of it.” (Illustrations not seen.)

Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53953-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Thought-provoking and charming.

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THE WILD ROBOT

A sophisticated robot—with the capacity to use senses of sight, hearing, and smell—is washed to shore on an island, the only robot survivor of a cargo of 500.

When otters play with her protective packaging, the robot is accidently activated. Roz, though without emotions, is intelligent and versatile. She can observe and learn in service of both her survival and her principle function: to help. Brown links these basic functions to the kind of evolution Roz undergoes as she figures out how to stay dry and intact in her wild environment—not easy, with pine cones and poop dropping from above, stormy weather, and a family of cranky bears. She learns to understand and eventually speak the language of the wild creatures (each species with its different “accent”). An accident leaves her the sole protector of a baby goose, and Roz must ask other creatures for help to shelter and feed the gosling. Roz’s growing connection with her environment is sweetly funny, reminiscent of Randall Jarrell’s The Animal Family. At every moment Roz’s actions seem plausible and logical yet surprisingly full of something like feeling. Robot hunters with guns figure into the climax of the story as the outside world intrudes. While the end to Roz’s benign and wild life is startling and violent, Brown leaves Roz and her companions—and readers—with hope.

Thought-provoking and charming. (Science fiction/fantasy. 7-11)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-38199-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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