A fine example of the quest story, beautifully illustrated.



In this YA fantasy adventure, a girl’s visit to an art museum takes her into a magical land where she’s at the center of an ancient prophecy and mission.

Laney, a high schooler, is at the art museum doing research when she slips into a closed gallery to see an exhibition of surreal paintings by real-life artist (and the book’s illustrator) Michael Cheval. She begins to feel dizzy, the absurdist images spinning, when someone shouts “Get out!” Stumbling through the emergency exit, Laney finds herself lost in another world, a snowy forest. She eventually ends up in a cottage, where a woman greets her: “I am Shaka, the Guardian of Tarzetta Trail, the heir of the arrows, the dreamer of dreams.” Laney’s arrival has been prophesied, it seems; she is the foretold “Sorceress from the West.” Evil has come to Shaka’s land in the form of poisonous black fogs and marauding wolves. It’s Laney’s destiny to restore peace by journeying to a clearing in the West Woods in time for the syzygy, or solar eclipse, “the magical time when anything is possible!” Shaka accompanies Laney, giving her some magical gifts to help the quest. Along their journey, the party meets friends and foes, encountering dangers and setbacks. Laney also learns more about how the black fogs arose from “greed and folly” and how to harness her powers, facing tests in Shaka’s world—and her own. Apseloff (Michael Cheval’s Magic, 2019, etc.) offers a heroine who’s initially apathetic but is challenged by circumstances to find inner qualities of courage, determination, and faith in destiny. The odyssey is varied nicely by side adventures, such as escaping a deadly ravine and crossing an ice-bound river. Linking the fantasy quest to a frightening and all-too-plausible, real-world situation is a smart move, deepening the resolution. The author has a good ear for fantasy diction, which helps create an appropriate sense of otherness for Shaka’s land. The attractive, accomplished black-and-white illustrations are well integrated with the storytelling, with Cheval’s (Michael Cheval’s Magic, 2019, etc.) lovely crosshatching and draftsmanship lending reality to the surreal.

A fine example of the quest story, beautifully illustrated.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-936772-22-3

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Ohio Distinctive Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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