THE WITCH'S VACUUM CLEANER

AND OTHER STORIES

Bravery shows up almost as often as buffoonery in these satiric bits and bobs.

More free-range juvenilia from the much-missed creator of Discworld.

Following up on The Dragons at Crumbling Castle, and Other Stories (2015), these 14 tales were likewise originally published in the 1960s and ’70s in the Bucks Free Press and reappear here with fresh titles and, as Pratchett puts it in his posthumous introduction, a few added “bits and bobs.” Mostly set in either the contemporary town of Blackbury or the “Wild West” (i.e., Welsh) hamlet of Llandanffwnfafegettupagogo, the tales tend toward silly upsets. These range from the mysterious transformation of local residents into Elizabethans to the exploits of Police Constable Bryn Bunyan, “fastest truncheon west of the River Severn,” at the O.K. Sheep Dip and elsewhere. In several episodes, adventurers, usually diminutive, intrepidly set out in such odd vehicles as a passing airship, a walnut submarine, or a human-sized lorry (this last forming the kernel of a later novel, Truckers). Aside from “An Ant Called 4179003” who settles in with an errant bee (both males, read into that what you will), the casts are all filled with standard, mundane or magical white, British types.

Bravery shows up almost as often as buffoonery in these satiric bits and bobs. (Fantasy/short stories. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-265311-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

FINDING MIGHTY

A quick, agreeable caper, this may spark some discussion even as it entertains.

Myla and Peter step into the path of a gang when they unite forces to find Peter’s runaway brother, Randall.

As they follow the graffiti tags that Randall has been painting in honor of the boys’ deceased father, they uncover a sinister history involving stolen diamonds, disappearances, and deaths. It started long ago when the boys’ grandmother, a diamond-cutter, partnered with the head of the gang. She was rumored to have hidden his diamonds before her suspicious death, leaving clues to their whereabouts. Now everyone is searching, including Randall. The duo’s collaboration is initially an unwilling one fraught with misunderstandings. Even after Peter and Myla bond over being the only people of color in an otherwise white school (Myla is Indian-American; mixed-race Peter is Indian, African-American, and white), Peter can’t believe the gang is after Myla. But Myla possesses a necklace that holds a clue. Alternating first-person chapters allow peeks into how Myla, Peter, and Randall unravel the story and decipher clues. Savvy readers will put the pieces together, too, although false leads and red herrings are cleverly interwoven. The action stumbles at times, but it takes place against the rich backdrops of gritty New York City and history-laden Dobbs Ferry and is made all the more colorful by references to graffiti art and parkour.

A quick, agreeable caper, this may spark some discussion even as it entertains. (Mystery. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2296-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

CHRONAL ENGINE

Action and enthusiasm aplenty, but, like most time-travel tales, not much for internal logic.

A Back to the Future–style romp through time, though with more loose ends than a bowl of spaghetti.

Hardly have teen twins Kyle and Emma and their younger brother (and narrator) Max arrived for a stay at their reclusive grandfather’s Texas ranch than the old man announces that he’s about to have a massive heart attack, shows them a working time machine in the basement and sends them out to a nearby paleontological site where they find fossilized sneaker prints among the dinosaur tracks. Then a stranger grabs Emma and vanishes in a flash of light—leaving the remaining sibs and a ranch hand’s bow-wielding daughter Petra to zoom in a Volkswagen Beetle back 70 million–plus years to the rescue. Not only does the late Cretaceous landscape turn out to be well stocked with crocodilian Deinosuchus and other toothy predators, a human gent falsely (as it turns out) claiming to be a refugee from 1919 steps out of the bushes to guide the others to the evidently dino-proof frame house in which Emma is being held. Everyone steams back to the present on the kidnapper’s motor launch, which is also fitted out as a time machine. Showing blithe disregard for potential paradoxes, the author sheds enough light on his byzantine back story to ensure that the protagonists will be taking more trips through time and closes with notes on dinosaurs and on the history of “Robinsonades.”

Action and enthusiasm aplenty, but, like most time-travel tales, not much for internal logic. (recommended reading) (Science fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-60849-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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