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

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THE WITCH'S VACUUM CLEANER

AND OTHER STORIES

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. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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A cancer story that struggles to evoke either laughter or tears

THE BEST MEDICINE

This Irish import’s 12-year-old narrator laughs to keep from crying.

Aspiring to become a professional comedian, Philip Wright enjoys entertaining his single mother and biggest fan, Kathy, while daily attempting to capture the attention of his art-class crush, “dark-haired goddess” Lucy Wells. When Kathy bursts into tears and locks herself in the bathroom after one of his jokes, Philip thinks he’s lost his touch. Prodded by her best friend, Kathy finally tells Philip that she has breast cancer that will require surgery, chemo, and radiation. Philip is initially enraged at how much this news will affect his world, never mind the impossibility of saying “breast” to his friends and teachers. When he finally faces the reality that he could lose his mom, Philip starts behaving like she matters. This novel has a rather slow beginning, with humor that feels too calculated to succeed, including an extended lisping riff, making fun of his Spanish best friend’s name (Angel, which Philip shortens to “Ang”), and the occasional reference to poo. The author also fails to explain how this family suffers no economic hardships while its only breadwinner cannot work. Nevertheless, middle-grade readers will identify with Philip’s conflicts with his best friend and his antics to win Lucy’s affections. Ang aside, the primary characters all appear to be Irish; absence of racial cues indicates that the default is white.

A cancer story that struggles to evoke either laughter or tears . (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55451-880-7

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the...

DEADLY PINK

Vande Velde again traps teenagers inside an authentically depicted arcade game—but here she works twists into the premise that are both amusing and crank up the danger.

As in User Unfriendly (1991) and Heir Apparent (2002), the game, called “The Land of Golden Butterflies,” is manufactured by the shadowy Rasmussem Corp. and is fully immersive, fed directly into the brain through electrodes. Into this game 14-year-old Grace Pizzelli’s big sister Emily has gone; moreover, she has refused to come out and altered the code so she can’t be forcibly ejected. As sessions that run longer than a few hours cause brain damage and death, the corporation desperately turns to Grace to follow Emily in and persuade her to leave. Reluctantly agreeing, Grace discovers to her disgust that, rather than offering the usual heroic-fantasy or science-fiction setting, this digital world has been colored in pinks and lavenders. It is stocked with (supposedly) benign magical creatures and hunky male servitors—in general, it seems designed to cater to 10-year-old would-be princesses. The idyll has gone sour, though, because thanks to Emily’s fiddling, not only have the wish-granting sprites turned nasty, but the game’s governing Artificial Intelligence has changed the Rules—disabling the “Quit” function and forcing both Grace and her already-failing sister to embark on a seemingly hopeless quest with their real lives at stake.

Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the digital domain. (Science fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-73850-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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