Solid, authentic basketball action with plenty of food for thought, colored with elements of fantasy.

TRAINING CAMP

From the Wizenard series , Vol. 1

A former NBA superstar is part of a writing duo that combines basketball and magic to tell the story of a struggling inner-city team.

Twelve-year-old Rain treasures the Fairwood Community Center and his team, the West Bottom Badgers. Although it is run-down, the walls hung with tattered banners, for Rain, the gym represents his best chance of becoming a success. The team owner, Freddy, has also brought in a new coach, professor Rolabi Wizenard, with a decidedly different way of running things. He seems to speak in riddles and use magic—the appearance of a tiger to assist in a drill, for example. As Rain contemplates life, he hears Rolabi in his head, challenging his fears and his thoughts about himself. Teammate Alfie, aka Twig, is from a comfortable suburban family, and some of the guys never let him forget it. Mercilessly teased, he has no one to confide in—but he might be the one to unlock the secret behind their new coach. The novel is unusual in structure and plot as readers experience the same incidents portrayed through different perspectives, each revealing another layer of the story. The end of training camp and the approach of actual games concludes the novel, leaving a cliffhanger for the next volume. Physical descriptions are limited, but most major characters are brown-skinned.

Solid, authentic basketball action with plenty of food for thought, colored with elements of fantasy. (Sports fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949520-01-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A rich and deeply felt slice of life.

JUST PRETEND

Crafting fantasy worlds offers a budding middle school author relief and distraction from the real one in this graphic memoir debut.

Everyone in Tori’s life shows realistic mixes of vulnerability and self-knowledge while, equally realistically, seeming to be making it up as they go. At least, as she shuttles between angrily divorced parents—dad becoming steadily harder to reach, overstressed mom spectacularly incapable of reading her offspring—or drifts through one wearingly dull class after another, she has both vivacious bestie Taylor Lee and, promisingly, new classmate Nick as well as the (all-girl) heroic fantasy, complete with portals, crystal amulets, and evil enchantments, taking shape in her mind and on paper. The flow of school projects, sleepovers, heart-to-heart conversations with Taylor, and like incidents (including a scene involving Tori’s older brother, who is having a rough adolescence, that could be seen as domestic violence) turns to a tide of change as eighth grade winds down and brings unwelcome revelations about friends. At least the story remains as solace and, at the close, a sense that there are still chapters to come in both worlds. Working in a simple, expressive cartoon style reminiscent of Raina Telgemeier’s, Sharp captures facial and body language with easy naturalism. Most people in the spacious, tidily arranged panels are White; Taylor appears East Asian, and there is diversity in background characters.

A rich and deeply felt slice of life. (afterword, design notes) (Graphic memoir. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-53889-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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