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

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There’s nothing exceptional here, but the otherworldly elements and headlong pacing will sweep readers along.

HENRY HUNTER AND THE CURSED PIRATES

From the Henry Hunter series , Vol. 2

In a second brush with the supernatural (following Henry Hunter and the Beast of Snagov, 2016), brainy young sleuth Henry and his faithful chronicler, Adolphus, are kidnapped by undead pirates. Yo ho ho!

News that a friend’s parents have vanished on a cruise in the Caribbean prompts the dapper kid detective (looking ever natty in suit, tie, and fedora in Tankard’s lavishly detailed drawings) to take a quick sabbatical from St. Grimbold’s School for Extraordinary Boys and fly to Barbados to investigate. Hardly has he begun than an ectoplasmic tentacle grabs him and his sidekick, Dolf—depositing both aboard the spectral ship of Blackbeard himself. The legendary pirate is still around courtesy of a curse laid on a certain bit of booty and, since ghosts can’t hold shovels, bent on collecting hapless tourists to dig up buried treasure. Matthews enthusiastically chucks bits of pirate lore, along with the odd skeleton, map, and treasure chest, into the enterprise, and for additional atmosphere, the illustrator strews margins and corners with bugs, fish, stormy seas, and nautical jetsam. Aside from a “Rastafarian” guide, the entire cast, living and otherwise, is evidently white (and, with one minor exception, male). By the end, the curse is broken, the pirates gone, the captives rescued, and Henry himself mysteriously vanished in the wake of an encounter with merpeople. Stay tuned.

There’s nothing exceptional here, but the otherworldly elements and headlong pacing will sweep readers along. (Fantasy/mystery. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-51071-039-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Ghost-story fans won’t be disappointed in the end, if they can slog that far through all the low-wattage civil-service...

THE MINISTRY OF GHOSTS

The threat of imminent shutdown prompts a small government agency to hire a pair of young independent contractors to capture a ghost in this British import.

On the way to a pleasantly tidy ending, Shearer delivers some comical chills and twists, but he takes too long to set them up. Driven by a blustering government cost-cutter’s ultimatum, the four (or five, counting the cat) remaining members of the antique Ministry of Ghosts—originally founded in 1792 to determine whether spirits are bunkum or real—decide a fresh approach is needed. The “help wanted” card they place in the dusty window of their ramshackle building draws two students from the local school: strong-minded Thruppence Coddley, daughter of a fishmonger, and timorous but game classmate Tim Legge, both white. The author salts his tale liberally with subtle clues and oddly quaint characters, and he eventually arrives at some startling (for unobservant readers, at least) revelations. But aside from brief mentions in a prologue, the two young people don’t even show up to get the ghost hunting under way until seven wordy introductory chapters have trundled slowly by, filled with eye-glazing exchanges and daily routines in an office where nothing much has changed in decades.

Ghost-story fans won’t be disappointed in the end, if they can slog that far through all the low-wattage civil-service satire. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5107-0473-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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