Witty, competent daughters enjoy just enough danger as they learn useful lessons.

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THE DAUGHTERS DARING

Two sisters stumble upon the plans of an evil witch and her minions in this middle-grade fantasy debut.

In the kingdom of Highcynder, 12-year-old Emily Daring watches her younger sister, Elizabeth, practice archery. Their father is Duke Daring, the hero of Highcynder, whom Elizabeth hopes to impress. After Elizabeth accidentally hits their neighbor Nathan Wormington with a practice arrow, the duchess puts her daughters’ energy to use by sending them to the market. The girls visit Annie Whipperpeel’s Sweets Shoppe to buy “sweetberry” pie. Tragically—in their view—the bakery hasn’t had any sweetberries in a week. Annie believes that mischievous forest gnomes took them all. Unsure of Annie’s theory, the siblings decide to sneak into the Enchanted Forest to investigate. They follow gnome prints to a cave—however, it’s goblins they find. As the adventurous duo defends against an armed, beady-eyed enemy, gnomes arrive to give the girls backup. The leader, Randolph, explains that the goblins have been working with the ogre king to horde sweetberries. Further, a witch is commanding the creatures, adding the berries to what may be a sleeping potion. When Elizabeth suggests they sneak into the ogre’s lair, Emily argues. Harsh words cause the sisters to separate, but they soon realize that teamwork is the only way to survive their adventure, one of the valuable lessons the story holds for its young readers. Unlike nearby kingdoms—Dublari, for example, which is built on slavery—Highcynder prizes an individual’s skills above parentage or status. Yet the girls behave in suitably childlike ways when they fib to their mother about going off to the Enchanted Forest; the duchess is just happy to see her daughters getting along. The witch’s goal, to remove a measure of people's freedom “to be utilized for the greater good,” should make sense to children, though it does step toward larger philosophical and political conversations. The garden gnome Periwinkle, who travels in Emily’s backpack, provides occasional comedic relief. Depictions of violence are always brief and not too gory (“The ogre king was...run through by the iron spikes”). Ferchaud’s (Princess Yellow Boots Finds a Friend, 2019, etc.) excellent black-and-white pencil illustrations greatly enhance the novel.

Witty, competent daughters enjoy just enough danger as they learn useful lessons.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9967232-0-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: KECELJ Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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