Words to live by, trite and larded with sentiment though they be in this particular iteration.

READ REVIEW

THE WISDOM OF MERLIN

7 MAGICAL WORDS FOR A MEANINGFUL LIFE

A small volume of homilies, spun from a 2013 speech and perfect for a graduate's gift (should pots of money not be an option).

Settled in his Crystal Cave, the old magician delivers observations and instructions gathered around "Seven Most Magical Words"—Gratitude, Courage, Knowledge, Belief, Wonder, Generosity and Hope—capped and completed by an eighth, Love. Threading in avuncular references to "my good friend Buddha," "[t]hat fellow Albert Einstein" and other luminaries, he urges listeners to turn off their electronic devices (because "being fully scheduled is not the same as being fully alive"), care for the planet, allow others their beliefs, and just generally "celebrate the wonder of it all." Most importantly, don't pass up love, because without it you "won't feel agony, but you will also never experience ecstasy." It’s hard not to wonder what the audience at Oxford University, the speech’s original audience, thought of it all.

Words to live by, trite and larded with sentiment though they be in this particular iteration. (Inspiration. 17 & up)

Pub Date: March 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-17325-7

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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AKIKO ON THE PLANET SMOO

Opening episodes of a comic-book series created by an American teacher in Japan take a leap into chapter-book format, with only partial success. Resembling—in occasional illustrations—a button-eyed, juvenile Olive Oyl, Akiko, 10, is persuaded by a pair of aliens named Bip and Bop to climb out her high-rise bedroom’s window for a trip to M&M-shaped Planet Smoo, where Prince Fropstoppit has been kidnapped by widely feared villainness Alia Rellaport. Along with an assortment of contentious sidekicks, including brainy Mr. Beeba, Akiko battles Sky Pirates and video-game-style monsters in prolonged scenes of cartoony violence, displaying resilience, courage, and leadership ability, but not getting very far in her rescue attempt; in fact, the story cuts off so abruptly, with so little of the quest completed, and at a lull in the action to boot, that readers expecting a self-contained (forget complete) story are likely to feel cheated. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-32724-2

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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Willis Holt’s When Zachary Beaver Came To Town (1999). (Fiction. 11-13)

REM WORLD

Preachy, predictable tale of an overweight lad who saves the universe while gaining self-esteem—a large step back from

Philbrick’s Freak the Mighty (1993). The odd helmet that Arthur Woodbury, a.k.a. "Biscuit Butt," receives on his 11th birthday projects him into another world—but because he doesn’t read the instructions carefully, he opens a crack in the cosmos through which all-destroying Nothing begins to seep. Acquiring an inscrutable, monkey-like sidekick, Arthur is propelled into encounters with froglike Frog People, winged Cloud People, and other residents of REM World, all of whom bolster his self-confidence with platitudes ("You are whatever you think you are. What you believe yourself to be," etc.) and send him on his way to the demon Vydel, who alone can tell him how to get back to his own dimension. Even readers uncritical enough to enjoy the author’s lame efforts at wit—burps of epic proportion, avian monsters dubbed borons ("bird" + "moron")—will find Arthur’s adventures so obviously freighted with Purpose as to be almost devoid of danger or suspense. Unsurprisingly, he has only to envision home to be there—and when he wakes up, both the cloud of Nothing and his excess poundage have melted away. Look for more engaging aliens in books like Annette Curtis Klause’s Alien Secrets and a far more memorable fat kid in Kimberly

Willis Holt’s When Zachary Beaver Came To Town (1999). (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-08362-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2000

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