Short chapters and frequent mild cliffhangers make this suitable for a middle-grade classroom read-aloud; but there’s little...

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THE LETTER FOR THE KING

The English translation of a prizewinning 1962 Dutch historical adventure exhibits both old-school charms and flaws.  

On the eve of his knighting, 16-year-old Tiuri abandons his vigil to answer an old man’s desperate plea. When the knight he seeks is murdered, Tiuri is charged with the delivery of a secret message determining the fate of kingdoms, and so begins a quest rich in chivalry, daring, and deadly peril. Brave, honorable, and earnest, Tiuri’s personality is matched by the straightforward prose, which meticulously chronicles every step of his journey in a meandering, episodic narrative. While encountering every make and manner of man (female characters barely exist in this world), Tiuri appears capable of judging the disposition of each at a glance, a feat made less remarkable when nearly everyone goes out of his or her way to be friendly and helpful, and the few villainous exceptions act with either inexplicable generosity or ludicrous incompetence. In stark contrast to current tropes, Tiuri’s mission at the end plays only a minor role in the greater conflict of nations, the outcome of which is never addressed. Tiuri himself returns home to pick up his life precisely where he left off, richer in experience but with his character fundamentally unaltered.

Short chapters and frequent mild cliffhangers make this suitable for a middle-grade classroom read-aloud; but there’s little here to captivate a 21st-century reader. (Historical adventure. 10-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-81978-7

Page Count: 528

Publisher: David Fickling/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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