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NEXT TOP VILLAIN

From the Ever After High: A School Story series , Vol. 1

Another clever, comical story filled with fairy-tale characters' teen progeny

The Ever After High franchise begun by Shannon Hale with The Storybook of Legends (2013) continues with a new companion series and new author.

Ever After High student princess Duchess Swan (daughter of the Swan Queen) is proud of her perfect grades and smooth ballet moves, and she is trying to come to terms with the fact that she won't have a “Happily Ever After” life but is destined to become merely a swan, albeit a royal one. Her roommate, fellow princess Lizzie Hearts, is the daughter of the Queen of Hearts of Wonderland. Duchess envies Lizzie her confidence and her future, since her foretold destiny does include a happy ending. What's more, Daring Charming, the ultrahandsome blond prince and crush object of every girl in the school—including Duchess—has an unrequited thing for Lizzie. The actual plot is pushed forward as Lizzie, Duchess and a few more students in General Villainy class battle to reach the honor of becoming the titular “Next Top Villain.” As in the previous books, humor and puns (“What the hex?”) are generously sprinkled like fairy dust throughout the story. Garnering much of the humor here is Sparrow Hood, Robin Hood's laid-back, soul-patched son, who is constantly riffing (both guitar and jokes). Readers will be mystified and perhaps frustrated that Duchess is so gaga over the empty-headed, narcissistic prince, but perhaps she will come to her swan senses in the next installment.

Another clever, comical story filled with fairy-tale characters' teen progeny . (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-40128-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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JAKE THE FAKE KEEPS IT REAL

From the Jake the Fake series , Vol. 1

A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid.

Black sixth-grader Jake Liston can only play one song on the piano. He can’t read music very well, and he can’t improvise. So how did Jake get accepted to the Music and Art Academy? He faked it.

Alongside an eclectic group of academy classmates, and with advice from his best friend, Jake tries to fit in at a school where things like garbage sculpting and writing art reviews of bird poop splatter are the norm. All is well until Jake discovers that the end-of-the-semester talent show is only two weeks away, and Jake is short one very important thing…talent. Or is he? It’s up to Jake to either find the talent that lies within or embarrass himself in front of the entire school. Light and humorous, with Knight’s illustrations adding to the fun, Jake’s story will likely appeal to many middle-grade readers, especially those who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. While the artsy antics may be over-the-top at times, this is a story about something that most preteens can relate to: the struggle to find your authentic self. And in a world filled with books about wanting to fit in with the athletically gifted supercliques, this novel unabashedly celebrates the artsy crowd in all of its quirky, creative glory.

A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52351-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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WORDS WITH WINGS

An inspirational exploration of caring among parent, teacher and child—one of Grimes’ best. (Poetry. 8-12)

In this delightfully spare narrative in verse, Coretta Scott King Award–winning Grimes examines a marriage’s end from the perspective of a child.

Set mostly in the wake of her father’s departure, only-child Gabby reveals with moving clarity in these short first-person poems the hardship she faces relocating with her mother and negotiating the further loss of a good friend while trying to adjust to a new school. Gabby has always been something of a dreamer, but when she begins study in her new class, she finds her thoughts straying even more. She admits: “Some words / sit still on the page / holding a story steady. / … / But other words have wings / that wake my daydreams. / They … / tickle my imagination, / and carry my thoughts away.” To illustrate Gabby’s inner wanderings, Grimes’ narrative breaks from the present into episodic bursts of vivid poetic reminiscence. Luckily, Gabby’s new teacher recognizes this inability to focus to be a coping mechanism and devises a daily activity designed to harness daydreaming’s creativity with a remarkably positive result for both Gabby and the entire class. Throughout this finely wrought narrative, Grimes’ free verse is tight, with perfect breaks of line and effortless shifts from reality to dream states and back.

An inspirational exploration of caring among parent, teacher and child—one of Grimes’ best. (Poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59078-985-8

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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