A delightful adventure about the power of uncommon traits and the joys of newfound friendship.


From the Nocturnals series , Vol. 1

Three uncommon strangers become friends and heroes in Hecht's debut middle-grade fantasy.

Night after night, animals have been disappearing. A wombat, a honey badger, several kiwis, and even a tarantula have found themselves victims of this nocturnal predator. Or is it predators? Luckily Tobin the gentle pangolin, Bismark the multilingual sugar glider, and Dawn the brave fox are determined to get to the bottom of it. Calling themselves the Brigade, they steadily pick up clues as well as other animal comrades. But when Bismark disappears, only their wits and unique talents will save him and the other missing wildlife. Hecht's characters diverge from the standard talking-animal fare. Readers interested in other, less-well-known members of the animal kingdom will appreciate the variety of critters in the book. The different animals’ particular characteristics enhance their personalities without pigeonholing their behavior, giving the author an opportunity to celebrate their strengths—happily without saturating the plot with a too obvious feel-good message. Bismark's distractingly italicized international vocabulary feels forced at times but is buoyed by the comedy of his misguided chivalry. The genuine concern of the animals for one another, even the villain, underscores the value of compassion and camaraderie. Full-color chapter heads are but one feature of the pleasing design.

A delightful adventure about the power of uncommon traits and the joys of newfound friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-944020-00-2

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Fabled Films

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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A fun, fantastical romp.


A legacy of magic binds two aspiring hopefuls from different worlds together.

Inspired in part by East Asian cultures, this graphic novel’s prologue reveals that a dragon draws rebuke from her family when she leaves the sea to be with her love, a fisherman. Now known as the Wu clan, their descendants earn respect from the dragons when they combine their collective magic and repel a powerful hurricane the dragons sent to destroy the kingdom. From then on, the dragons promise to always answer the call of the Wu family. In the present day, 12-year-old Sophie Wu, an aspiring witch, is determined to perfect her spells for her audition to the Royal Magic Academy. She travels to stay with her young aunt, Sage, a recent Academy graduate, and her cantankerous great-aunt in Dragon Bay Harbor Town to learn from them. However, her great-aunt’s incessant negativity about her talents—which she hopes to disprove—and her own insecurities cause Sophie to lose control of a spell. A dragon named Lir becomes stuck in human form with no memories of what came before. A diplomatic conflict ensues that threatens the peace between dragons and humans unless Sophie and Lir are able to untangle their intertwined magic. Reminiscent of Kiki’s Delivery Service, the colorful panels are filled with movement, and the manga-style art pops. Characters have skin tones ranging from light to mid-brown and hair in varying shades of brown.

A fun, fantastical romp. (author’s note) (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-295579-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...


A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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