Another saying goes, “Artists have to know the rules before they can break them.” This author knows the rules of fantasy...

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THISBY THESTOOP AND THE BLACK MOUNTAIN

The saying goes, “Write what you know.” Gorman seems to know a whole lot about monsters.

This fantasy novel is filled with monsters, and they’re not always familiar ones. There are wereplants and a slughemoth and a tarasque. Readers may assume the author made them up, but most of them come from actual folklore. Thisby Thestoop is in charge of feeding—and sometimes grooming—the monsters. Castle Grimstone, where she’s grown up, has to look nice for tourists. It’s designed to be an attraction for bored and foolish adventurers—fertile ground for a writer. One charm of the book is that everything that happens feels slightly counterintuitive and, better yet, slightly cynical. This extends to the pacing. When readers expect an epic battle, they may get the history of a city. Sometimes basic plot exposition is delayed until many chapters into the book. But there is a proper adventure story, complete with a search for a missing prince. The characters are so odd and engaging, though, that the plot hardly matters. The cast is only moderately diverse, however: a white protagonist; a pair of black-haired, olive-skinned twins; and a black adventurer/tourist who pops in now and again.

Another saying goes, “Artists have to know the rules before they can break them.” This author knows the rules of fantasy really well, and if the pacing sometimes defies convention, he makes up for it with spectacular monsters. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-249567-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action.

THE SILVER ARROW

The best birthday present is a magical train full of talking animals—and a new job.

On Kate’s 11th birthday, she’s surprised by the arrival of rich Uncle Herbert. Uncle Herbert bears a gift: a train. Not a toy train, a 102.36-ton steam engine, with cars that come later. When Kate and her brother, Tom, both white, play in the cab of the Silver Arrow, the train starts up, zooming to a platform packed with animals holding tickets. Thus begins Kate and Tom’s hard work: They learn to conduct the train and feed the fire box, instructed by the Silver Arrow, which speaks via printed paper tape. The Silver Arrow is a glorious playground: The library car is chockablock with books while the candy car is brimful of gobstoppers and gummy bears. But amid the excitement of whistle-blowing and train conducting, Kate and Tom learn quiet messages from their animal friends. Some species, like gray squirrels and starlings, are “invaders.” The too-thin polar bear’s train platform has melted, leaving it almost drowned. Their new calling is more than just feeding the coal box—they need to find a new balance in a damaged world. “Feeling guilty doesn’t help anything,” the mamba tells them. Humans have survived so effectively they’ve taken over the world; now, he says, “you just have to take care of it.” (Illustrations not seen.)

Both cozy and inspiring, this eco-fable conveys both grim truths and a defiant call to action. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53953-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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