Equal parts funny and fatiguing.

RONAN BOYLE AND THE SWAMP OF CERTAIN DEATH

From the Ronan Boyle series , Vol. 2

Following Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles (2019), the further zany adventures of an anxiety-prone 15-year-old member of the Garda Special Unit of Tir Na Nog, i.e., Irish faerie fighter.

Despite his incompetence, anxiety, and absolute lack of courage, young Ronan Boyle is off again to the enchanted side of Ireland, to capture Lord Desmond Dooley, the man who framed Boyle’s parents for theft of an ancient mummy, the Bog Man, and to rescue his captain, who fell into Dooley’s nefarious hands. Accompanied by the formidable Log MacDougall, a human raised by leprechauns, and an Irish wolfhound named Rí, he braves a wild variety of horrors, including a unicorn spa town, where he appears in a musical revue, and the titular Swamp of Certain Death. As in the first volume, the tale is snort-out-loud funny on the sentence level, but the plot, such as there is one, approximates the inside of Ronan’s noggin: “a hamster on a Mobius strip, running frantic laps to nowhere.” It’s highly enjoyable to a point, and then the utter lack of cause and effect begins to wear readers down. One could skip any or all of 90% of the scenes in this book and never notice. As far as race goes, the unicorns come in all colors; Ronan is depicted as white on the cover.

Equal parts funny and fatiguing. (Fantasy. 8-14)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4113-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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