A fresh, funny adventure and the best installment in the series so far.

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THE HIDDEN CITY OF CHELLDRAH-HAM

BELAS RIFT

In the third book of the middle-grade Chelldrah-Ham series, von Clinkerhoffen (The Hidden City of Chelldrah-ham: War of Chaos, 2015, etc.) brings its protagonists to a different world: Earth.

After following the evil human Anet through a rift to her home planet, Stig and Meg (aliens known as Manna) are astonished by their new surroundings. Earth is populated by giants who talk into mysterious black boxes, drive “strange enclosed carts,” and arm themselves with “fire sticks.” Although the two Manna are invisible to most humans, it’s not long before they find themselves hunted by “smelly copters” in the sky and police officers on land. As they try to shake their pursuers, they steal from a bar, scare people in a church, and accidentally wreak havoc on the English countryside in misadventures that include vehicular crashes and explosions. In between, they follow a series of obscure clues leading to an ancient, golden temple underground, which guards the entrance to their homeworld. With the help of allies, both human and Manna, they try to defeat Anet before she unleashes an army of mutant creatures on the Manna and plunders their city’s gold. Nothing breathes new life into a series like a change in setting, and von Clinkerhoffen plays up the dramatic irony of the two Manna viewing the human world from the outside, with frequently humorous results. For instance, Stig and Meg refer to television as “ohnomorerepeats,” having heard humans use that phrase repeatedly. By now, the author’s habit of italicizing sound effects is no longer distracting; instead, the clunks and whirs merely draw attention to Stig’s mechanical obsession. As in the previous books, the Manna encounter various vehicles and machinery, and von Clinkerhoffen discusses in depth how they work, which some young readers might find tedious. Aspiring mechanics or engineers, though, will enjoy solving problems right along with Stig.

A fresh, funny adventure and the best installment in the series so far.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5395-1542-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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ZATHURA

A trite, knock-off sequel to Jumanji (1981). The “Jumanji” box distracts Walter Budwing away from beating up on his little brother Danny, but it’s Danny who discovers the Zathura board inside—and in no time, Earth is far behind, a meteor has smashed through the roof, and a reptilian Zyborg pirate is crawling through the hole. Each throw of the dice brings an ominous new development, portrayed in grainy, penciled freeze frames featuring sculptured-looking figures in constricted, almost claustrophobic settings. The angles of view are, as always, wonderfully dramatic, but not only is much of the finer detail that contributed to Jumanji’s astonishing realism missing, the spectacular damage being done to the Budwings’ house as the game progresses is, by and large, only glimpsed around the picture edges. Naturally, having had his bacon repeatedly saved by his younger sibling’s quick thinking, once Walter falls through a black hole to a time preceding the game’s start, his attitude toward Danny undergoes a sudden, radical transformation. Van Allsburg’s imagination usually soars right along with his accomplished art—but here, both are just running in place. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-25396-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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TRISTAN STRONG DESTROYS THE WORLD

From the Tristan Strong series , Vol. 2

Tristan Strong is back in this sequel to Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (2019).

A month’s passed since rising eighth grader Tristan’s first adventure in Alke, the world where African American folktale heroes are gods who live alongside African deities. Tristan’s now an Anansesem, “a carrier and spreader of stories,” and after the Shamble Man, a new foe, kidnaps his grandmother and takes her back to Alke, he follows, determined to rescue her. Tristan heads off on an adventure that will challenge his reluctant hero-ness (realistically, this aspect of his character hasn’t changed) and force him to reckon with the truth: Though he saved Alke, he was also the reason Alke was in danger in the first place. Fans of the first book will cheer the return of old friends, like capable, reliable Ayanna; the ever quippy Gum Baby (who steals the show, as per usual); and cellphone-bound trickster Anansi, and appreciate the new characters. The ending is nothing short of earth-shattering, promising a fascinating next entry. Well-paced—just like the previous installment—this sequel focuses on themes such as the meaning of diaspora and the effects of trauma, making for a more nuanced and stronger story than the first. The human characters are Black with varying shades of brown skin.

Packs a punch. (map) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-04238-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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