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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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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