A diverting if heavy-handed entry for series fans.

ZEPHRUM GATES & THE BELLY OF THE BEAST

From the Zephrum Gates series , Vol. 3

Zephrum Gates and her friends are back and must confront the rising evil that threatens all of humanity.

In Riel’s third novel in the Zephrum Gates series, Zephrum believes the evil Strasidous Rowpe to be vanquished, but she soon learns that the villain has risen from the dead after merging body and mind with a goblin. Now renamed Virgidous, he is out to gain ultimate power over all things and to finally capture Zephrum. Virgidous learns from notorious goblin seer Grizalda the Great that his plan for world domination will only work with the help of the infamous Zephrum. Meanwhile, Zephrum and her friends return for a new school year at the Fiddlesticks School for Alternative Thinkers With Unusual Abilities. Between lessons on “Circus Art,” “Forecasting the Future Through Mathematical Trends,” and “Oceanography,” Zephrum has to learn to wield her power to control the wind while saving the world with the help of her friends and an unlikely ally. Zephrum comes to face her worst fears, meets new dangers, and faces old foes. She also falls a little bit in love with her dreamy friend Gai Holmes. Middle-grade readers familiar with Riel’s series will be better served by this fantasy novel than those completely new to it. Zephrum’s strong friendships with other girls at school and her earnest encounter with first love are the novel’s core strengths. Other elements offer ongoing appeal: the characters’ names (Sarah Bellum, Daphne Gumption, Misty Falls, to name a few), the silliness of its cackling villain with his absolutely nonsensical plan, and the adult characters who fumble helplessly along. Despite embracing its silly side, the novel maintains a weighty environmental message and kills off a beloved dog, creating an uneven narrative tone. Instances of clunky writing (“thought Zephrum in her mind”) jar but don’t fully ruin the experience.

A diverting if heavy-handed entry for series fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-578-75557-1

Page Count: 353

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2020

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A touching, playful, and satisfying tale of a silver-screen wonder dog.

STRONGHEART

WONDER DOG OF THE SILVER SCREEN

Before Rin Tin Tin and Lassie there was Strongheart, the first canine movie star, whose real-life career serves as the basis of this fast-paced, dramatic story from Fleming and Rohmann.

In the silent-film era of the 1920s, director Larry Trimble decides his next big movie star will be a dog and in Berlin finds what he is looking for: a thoroughly trained, 3-year-old, male German shepherd with a fierce disposition named Etzel. Renamed Strongheart, Trimble’s find becomes an instant superstar with the release of his first film, The Silent Call, in 1921. Strongheart has an off-screen romance with his leading lady in the appropriately titled The Love Master, resulting in a litter of puppies. The climax of the story is a dramatic courtroom trial in which Strongheart stands accused of attacking and killing 6-year-old Sofie Bedard, but boys from an orphanage produce Sofie in court at the last moment. Strongheart is vindicated when it’s discovered Sofie’s parents orchestrated her disappearance for an extortion scheme. Like a silent movie plot, Fleming’s narrative is full of adventure, romance, and suspense. An author’s note explains the facts behind the story. Rohmann’s expressive illustrations beautifully capture Strongheart’s personality; their integration into the book’s design is striking. Particularly notable are three two-page spreads depicting the dog contemplating and then stealing a doughnut.

A touching, playful, and satisfying tale of a silver-screen wonder dog. (photos, bibliography, notes) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-93410-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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A quick skim of the subject—readable, but unsystematic and not well served by either the art or the dusty closing...

GIFTS FROM THE GODS

Countering the notion that our language just sprang into existence from nowhere, a respected storyteller offers quick notes on the Classical backgrounds behind several dozen words or expressions in common use.

Arranging her 17 main choices alphabetically from “Achilles Heel” to “Victory,” Lunge-Larsen supplies for each a use-quote, retells or paraphrases a Greek or Roman myth that explains the term’s usage then closes with quick references to several related gods or other figures whose names are still embedded in English. While “Pandora’s Box” and some other entries feature fully developed tales, others do not. The story of Achilles (whose role and death in the Trojan War are encompassed in one sentence about how, after the “Battle of Troy [sic] broke out … one fateful arrow pierced his heel”) and others are sketchy at best. Adding occasional dialogue balloons graphic-novelist, Hinds presents expertly drawn but similarly sketchy watercolor scenes of fully-clothed or discreetly posed mortals and immortals on nearly every page. While pulling modern use-quotes from current literature for kids has the potential to spice up the presentation, some works are relatively obscure (River Boy, by Tim Bowler) or above the natural audience for this text (The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney).

A quick skim of the subject—readable, but unsystematic and not well served by either the art or the dusty closing bibliography. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-15229-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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