Provocative and offbeat. (Fantasy. 10-14)

THE WIKKELING

The low-key dystopia pictured in this inventive tale may not strike a chill into the hearts of young readers, but it’s sure to disconcert adults.

The highly connected, technological future in which Henrietta Gad-Fly lives feels appallingly possible. Safety is the primary social force, solitude is unknown, traffic jams clog the roads and horns have been replaced by “Honk Ads,” which relentlessly tout upgraded cell phones and promote conspicuous consumption. Awkward and lonely, Henrietta is surprised and pleased to make two friends in the space of a few days. Oddly enough, Gary and Rose both share her propensity for headaches. The discovery of a “wild housecat” in Henrietta’s attic leads all three to learn more about the past, connects Henrietta to her family in new ways and eventually sparks a confrontation with the creature (or program?) that is draining their energy and causing them pain. Along the way, Arntson touches on the value of knowledge, the destruction of the environment and the importance of individuality, as well as offering intriguing glimpses of a number of imaginary animals. Most of Terrazzini’s black-and-white illustrations resemble cut-paper silhouettes and provide a suitably stark vision of Henrietta’s world. A few wispier grey-on-grey drawings are included, ostensibly on pages of the antique Bestiary the children consult, and these are variously whimsical and frightening.  

Provocative and offbeat. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7624-3903-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes.

THE TOWER OF NERO

From the Trials of Apollo series , Vol. 5

In this tumultuous series closer, Apollo, transformed into a mortal teenager, takes on both a deified emperor in a luxurious Manhattan high-rise and an older adversary.

Lester/Apollo’s coast-to-coast quest reaches its climactic stage as, with help from both eager squads of fledgling demigods from Camp Half-Blood and reluctant allies from realms deep below New York, he invades the palatial lair of Emperor Nero—followed by a solo bout with another foe from a past struggle. Riordan lays on the transformation of the heedless, arrogant sun god to a repentant lover of his long-neglected semidivine offspring and of humanity in general, which has served as the series’ binding theme, thickly enough to have his humbled narrator even apologizing (twice!) to his underwear for having to change it periodically. Still, the author delivers a fast, action-driven plot with high stakes, lots of fighting, and occasional splashes of gore brightened by banter and silly bits, so readers aren’t likely to mind all the hand-wringing. He also leaves any real-life parallels to the slick, megalomaniacal, emotionally abusive Nero entirely up to readers to discern and dishes out just deserts all round, neatly tying up loose ends in a set of closing vignettes. The supporting cast is predominantly White, with passing mention of diverse representation.

A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes. (glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4645-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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