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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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A sweet adventure and a paean to imagination and childhood innocence.

THE LAND OF ROAR

From the Land of Roar series , Vol. 1

A fantasy world comes to life and lures its young creators back into it in this imaginative middle-grade debut and U.K. import.

Narrator Arthur always loved playing make-believe in Grandad’s attic with his twin sister, Rose. Years ago they dreamed up Roar, a magical land that they entered via an old fold-up cot that acted as a portal. Now that they are 11 and starting school at Langdon Academy, Rose has new friends and wants nothing to do with her brother or their imaginary world. Rose may be done with Roar, but it’s not finished with her. When their grandfather is kidnapped and taken into Roar, Arthur and Rose must team up to mount a rescue mission. McLachlan does an excellent job of establishing the sibling tension before introducing the fantasy elements, and Rose’s desire to grow up and fit in feels as familiar and accessible as Arthur’s yearning to remain a child. While obviously reminiscent of classic fantasy, this narrative’s sheer inventiveness marks it as distinct. The twins’ widowed grandfather, a larger-than-life jokester from Mauritius, is a Peter Pan–like figure whose abduction brings the narrative into Roar, allowing the text and Mantle’s illustrations to go wild with creativity. The use of a wordless double-page spread to depict Arthur’s arrival into the fantasy realm is particularly inventive. Arthur and Rose are depicted as kids of color.

A sweet adventure and a paean to imagination and childhood innocence. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-298271-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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