Unfortunately, the story itself lays an egg. For a really magical book about mythical animals, readers should try The...

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THE MENAGERIE

From the Menagerie series , Vol. 1

Numerous books have successfully built on a premise of human interaction with mythical creatures, but this one is overstuffed and convoluted.

When Logan and his father move to the small town of Xanadu, Wyo., he becomes involved in the search for six missing griffin cubs from the Menagerie. The action is as wild and wooly as a mammoth, with those prehistoric beasts, unicorns, mermaids and hellhounds and other creatures appearing around every corner. In the space of one day, Logan complains, “my clothes have been set on fire by a phoenix, drowned by a kelpie, rolled on by a mammoth, clawed and nibbled by griffin cubs, and drenched in kraken ink.” Can he help classmate Zoe and her family save the Menagerie from being shut down by SNAPA (SuperNatural Animal Protection Agency)? Driven by the plot, the characters lack depth; the creatures provide heft, but there are too many, too conveniently introduced. Pop-culture references—The Hunger Games, the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Wheel of Fortune—feel like pandering and will date the book. One clever touch is Logan’s ability to communicate with the opinionated griffin cubs. Book 2 will pick up from the last sentence of the abrupt ending: “Someone had murdered the goose who laid the golden eggs.”

Unfortunately, the story itself lays an egg. For a really magical book about mythical animals, readers should try The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, by Patricia McKillip (1974). (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-078064-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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SPACE CASE

From the Moon Base Alpha series , Vol. 1

When Dr. Holtz’s body is discovered just outside the lunar colony, everyone assumes he made a mistake putting on his spacesuit—but 12-year-old Dashiell “Dash” Gibson has reason to believe this was no accident.

Earth’s first space base has been a living hell for Dash. There’s not much to do on the moon besides schoolwork and virtual-reality gaming, and there’s only a handful of kids his age up there with him. The chance to solve a murder is exactly the type of excitement Dash needs. As clues are found and secrets are uncovered, Dash comes to understand that some of the base’s residents aren’t what they seem to be. With a small cast of characters supplying an excellent variety of suspects, Gibbs creates the best kind of “murder on a train” mystery. The genius, however, is putting the train in space. Closed quarters and techno–mumbo-jumbo add delightful color to the proceedings. Thankfully, the author doesn’t let the high-concept setting overshadow the novel’s mystery. The whodunit is smartly paced and intricately plotted. Best of all, the reveal is actually worth all the buildup. Thrillers too often fly off the rails in their final moments, but the author’s steady hand keeps everything here on track.

Fully absorbing. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9486-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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