Sometimes rough around the edges but an imaginative illustration of emotional intelligence.




Magic Moon deals with bullies in his world, and camp counselors do the same on Earth in this fourth installment of a series.

In the three previous outings—two fairy-tale–style picture books and a contemporary chapter book—Magic Moon helped people by granting certain requests and giving advice. Now his Creator has sent him to a new world, one inhabited by beings with multicolored fur—all except Farni, who’s plain white all over. He’s bullied for this, considered a freak, and has no friends. At first, he’s terrified when Magic Moon addresses him, but his curiosity and courage allow them to become acquainted. On Earth, 17-year-old Roni, who’s white, and her Polynesian friend Makani are counselors at a girls’ camp. (In the previous volume, Roni’s cousin Tara helped a family cross into this world from a magic portal when Magic Moon had to leave.) When the counselors discover caramel-skinned Kauna, 8, crying by herself, they figure out that she’s being bullied and vow to put a stop to it, with the approval of camp director Gail. In both worlds, practical demonstrations show the wrongness of prejudice based on outward appearances. For example, Magic Moon reveals how a prism separates white light into a rainbow of colors—but it’s all the same light. Inward qualities, like Farni’s bravery, are what matter. Moulton (Magic Moon: Two Worlds, 2017, etc.) has an intriguing idea in marrying the anti-bullying message with fantasy. The important role of adults in responding to such behavior is modeled here in both worlds; on Earth more realistically, and in Farni’s world, with broader humor (Brown Bear, for example, becomes Farni’s protector). At times, the message becomes overly earnest, so the slightly loony feel of Farni’s realm is a good break. But the flow between worlds is choppy due to short chapters, often only two or three pages. And Moulton’s writing can be awkward or repetitive; for example, the unnecessary quotation marks in “a small, furry, white ‘bear-like’ creature, with a smaller, brown ‘dog-like’ creature.”

Sometimes rough around the edges but an imaginative illustration of emotional intelligence.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-978137-11-0

Page Count: 146

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

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Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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Ramona returns (Ramona Forever, 1988, etc.), and she’s as feisty as ever, now nine-going-on-ten (or “zeroteen,” as she calls it). Her older sister Beezus is in high school, baby-sitting, getting her ears pierced, and going to her first dance, and now they have a younger baby sister, Roberta. Cleary picks up on all the details of fourth grade, from comparing hand calluses to the distribution of little plastic combs by the school photographer. This year Ramona is trying to improve her spelling, and Cleary is especially deft at limning the emotional nuances as Ramona fails and succeeds, goes from sad to happy, and from hurt to proud. The grand finale is Ramona’s birthday party in the park, complete with a cake frosted in whipped cream. Despite a brief mention of nose piercing, Cleary’s writing still reflects a secure middle-class family and untroubled school life, untouched by the classroom violence or the broken families of the 1990s. While her book doesn’t match what’s in the newspapers, it’s a timeless, serene alternative for children, especially those with less than happy realities. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16816-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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