A lovely story with charming illustrations, though it may be disturbing for some younger readers.


Lavender Blue and the Faeries of Galtee Wood

Photographer Richardson wrote this, his impressive debut, to help process his grief.

Lavender Blue is devastated to learn that her friend Rose O’Brien doesn’t have long to live. Vowing to the stars that she will do anything to prevent Rose’s death, Lavender falls asleep clutching a rosebud but awakens feeling peaceful and holding a necklace and charm instead of the rosebud. Her teacher, Professor Priddle, consults a volume on the history of the faeries of Galtee Wood and concludes that the symbol on the charm represents the golden rainbow. He believes that the faeries consider Lavender blessed and are trying to communicate with her. Professor Priddle gives her a pouch filled with iron dust to ward away evil faeries. She starts to walk home when she sees a rainbow peek through the clouds. Wondering if it’s a sign, she runs toward it and encounters a leprechaun, who tells her that if she delivers the necklace to Rose by midnight, her friend will be saved; if not, Rose will die. Thus begins Lavender’s journey through the Galtee Wood, by turns worrying, terrifying and occasionally joyous. Just when Lavender gives up all hope, she meets the beautiful faerie queen, Wisteria. Inspired by the real-life Galtee Woods and Lismore Castle, the story is beautifully crafted, with a believable mixture of fay folk, both good and evil. Although the chapter book is exquisitely illustrated—MacDougall’s watercolorlike drawings are one of the book’s main attractions—it shouldn’t be mistaken for a picture book, since the subject matter will be too disturbing for younger children. Despite the serious subject matter, the book just narrowly avoids being morbid or too sad. Rose’s undisclosed illness is puzzling, most of all to Lavender, who isn’t quite convincing as the heroic protagonist the faeries consider her to be. Although she claims to be devoted to her dying friend, she is too easily distracted and excessively gullible. Nonetheless, the paranormal elements are engaging, as are the book’s reassuring, simple morals of loyalty and doing anything for your friends.

A lovely story with charming illustrations, though it may be disturbing for some younger readers.

Pub Date: July 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9786422-4-2

Page Count: 75

Publisher: Impossible Dreams Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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