Lighthearted and conspiratorially didactic; an agreeable romp toward adulthood.

THE ADVENTURES OF TOBY BAXTER

THE RIVER ELF, THE GIANT, AND THE CLOSET

In this middle-grade novel, a teenager journeys to a Tolkien-inspired fantasy land to act as its hero.

On the day before his 13th birthday, Toby Baxter looks out the classroom window and sees what appears to be a hobbit. Toby is into comic books and Marvel movies, not literary fantasies like Tolkien’s The Hobbit and C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Still, when he wakes at night to find a middle-aged man named Author in his room, he can’t help following him through the closet and into his own adventure. Toby is transported to a world where his coming is foretold and he is known as a hero. There is a magic sword encased in rock, inscribed “I.C.E. Call Toby Baxter.” The hobbit Toby saw turns out to be an elf wearing hairy boots. The elves are at war with the trolls, and though they try to live normal lives (eating large meals and playing Australian rules football), another crisis has arisen in this long conflict. Can Toby lead his new friends to victory or will Clygon, Tribal Chief of the trolls, steal his power? Through his actions, what sort of hero does Toby aspire to be? Wright employs a jocose narrative style, telling the story from Toby’s perspective (third person, past tense) but with sporadic authorial asides: “Every sound startled him. Every birdcall caused him to duck—did he just step into a pun?—until he finally relaxed.” Toby is a typical middle-class American teen who carries much of his real-world personality into the fantasy setting. He is quick to suspend disbelief yet never entirely unaware of reality. Though fired by determination and assailed by doubts, he remains happy-go-lucky and too easily distracted by food. Wright reimagines stock fantasy characters (elves, trolls, gnomes) to be more everyday in their outlooks, less a product of quest narrative requirements. While there are perhaps too many elven characters with too little to distinguish them, their society as a whole has more personality than most. The story moves at a good pace, albeit with plenty of asides, and offers a laudable twist (a Star Wars–esque “don’t give in to the dark side”). Young fantasists will enjoy having their eyes opened.

Lighthearted and conspiratorially didactic; an agreeable romp toward adulthood.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66784-963-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.

LEGACY AND THE DOUBLE

From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Embedding their appealing protagonist in a fully realized Caribbean setting, Callender has readers rooting for Caroline the...

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HURRICANE CHILD

Born during a storm, Caroline Murphy, a 12-year-old black girl, is convinced that she has been cursed with bad luck.

The old ladies around her way say this is the fate of any child born during a hurricane. Recent events in her life seem to confirm this. Feeling unwanted by everyone, especially since the abrupt departure of her mom, Caroline leads a difficult life. She is bullied by those at her school in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, including her teacher, for her skin, which is darker than theirs. She is also followed around by a spirit—the woman in black—that she is sure only she can see. The arrival of a new student from Barbados changes Caroline’s life significantly. Also bullied, the exuberantly dreadlocked Kalinda becomes Caroline’s first and only friend, and soon Caroline’s feelings blossom into something more than platonic. This spells problems for Caroline, since feelings like these are considered sinful in Catholic school. Caroline now must deal with growing up without a mother and her feelings for Kalinda, all while trying to figure out why the woman in black will not leave her alone. Her journey to the answers to her most burning questions finds her discovering much about herself and those around her. Writing in Caroline’s present-tense voice, Callender draws readers in and makes them identify with Caroline’s angst and sorrow and joy and pain.

Embedding their appealing protagonist in a fully realized Caribbean setting, Callender has readers rooting for Caroline the whole way. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-12930-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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