THE MYSTIC PHYLES

BEASTS

Sketchy infodumps and plotting leave fancy packaging to carry the load in this elaborately decorated journal.

Impelled by a request delivered by a cat, 13-year-old orphan Abigail compiles information on 15 probably mythical beasts, from mermaids and sea monsters to bunyips, barguests and Bigfoot. Meanwhile she also records incidents in a largely unhappy life—cloistered at home by a tyrannical grandfather and afflicted at her small-town school by bullies and cliques alike. Framed as a diary that fills every square inch including the endpapers, her narrative is presented on swatches of paper interspersed with a mix of dramatic full-page creature portraits, smaller images of old prints and supplementary drawings. These last are in a more informal style, and all are neatly applied over backgrounds pre-brushed with rich colors. Her “reports” run to only a few short comments or quotes (capped at the end by a stale booklist and a more helpful set of websites). Her personal miseries are abruptly resolved by a miraculous pendant and the revelation—quickly laid out at the end and reading more like a draft scenario—that the mythical creatures are real and there’s a struggle going on between those who would hide them and others who want them exposed.

 

Pub Date: July 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-57091-718-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.

A GIRL, A RACCOON, AND THE MIDNIGHT MOON

This is the way Pearl’s world ends: not with a bang but with a scream.

Pearl Moran was born in the Lancaster Avenue branch library and considers it more her home than the apartment she shares with her mother, the circulation librarian. When the head of the library’s beloved statue of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay is found to be missing, Pearl’s scream brings the entire neighborhood running. Thus ensues an enchanting plunge into the underbelly of a failing library and a city brimful of secrets. With the help of friends old, uncertainly developing, and new, Pearl must spin story after compelling story in hopes of saving what she loves most. Indeed, that love—of libraries, of books, and most of all of stories—suffuses the entire narrative. Literary references are peppered throughout (clarified with somewhat superfluous footnotes) in addition to a variety of tangential sidebars (the identity of whose writer becomes delightfully clear later on). Pearl is an odd but genuine narrator, possessed of a complex and emotional inner voice warring with a stridently stubborn outer one. An array of endearing supporting characters, coupled with a plot both grounded in stressful reality and uplifted by urban fantasy, lend the story its charm. Both the neighborhood and the library staff are robustly diverse. Pearl herself is biracial; her “long-gone father” was black and her mother is white. Bagley’s spot illustrations both reinforce this and add gentle humor.

The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.   (reading list) (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6952-1

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A sensitive, moving debut.

THE UNICORN IN THE BARN

When 11-year-old Eric Harper begins caring for an injured unicorn, his life is changed by the choices he makes, the relationships he forms, and the secrets he uncovers.

Eric lives with his family on land that has belonged to Harpers for generations and shares a special bond with his grandmother. One day, Eric spies what he thinks is a white deer but quickly realizes is a white unicorn. Filled with the “most amazing feeling of comfort and happiness and excitement,” Eric follows the lame unicorn to the farmhouse his ailing grandmother recently sold to Dr. Brancusi, a veterinarian, and her daughter, Allegra. (All three characters appear to be white.) Dr. Brancusi senses Eric’s concern and asks him to help her treat the unicorn. Discovering the unicorn is pregnant with twins, Dr. Brancusi warns Eric they must keep her hidden until the babies are born and hires him to assist. Eric’s affinity to the unicorn deepens, and when she’s threatened and runs away, he frantically searches. In the end, although Eric experiences loss, he gains a special family connection. Despite the presence of supernatural creatures, Eric’s quiet, genuine, first-person voice tells a realistic story of family love and discovering one’s true self, the presence of the unicorn and other magical creatures adding just a touch of whimsy to a story about very real emotions, revealed in Green’s black-and-white illustrations.

A sensitive, moving debut. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-76112-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more