In the crowded teens-with-powers genre, this debut sails above the rest.


Hunt for the Sun Children

In this YA debut, teens with elemental powers train to battle monsters in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

The world has been reduced to glass craters and tumbled ruins by the Burning. In scattered villages, survivors of the Confederacy send gifted children to Redbridge Academy, where they learn to harness the elements: water, earth, fire, and wind. Rayne is from Bluffstown, a coastal community. She and best friend Jules begin three years of training to become Guardians, who fight (and often die) against monsters in the Ziera Mountains. Reaching the academy, Rayne chooses to learn water casting, while Jules chooses fire. The teens also find romance at Redbridge; Jules dates Kiki, and Rayne meets Jay, who cares for the injured in the Mendery. When Rayne’s friend Cascade is hurt, she intuitively heals the girl with flesh casting. Jay tells Rayne to hide the ability, otherwise the school Masters will make her a permanent resident of Healersbay against her will. Jay also hints at a conspiracy, led by Grand Master Efthalia, to find two casters who can manipulate light and shadow—the sun children. These powerful individuals have the potential to destroy the world, much like it was during the Burning. Debut author Iverson combines motifs from Avatar: The Last Airbender and the X-Men comics for an exhilarating read that has no shortage of hairpin twists. As the cast swells with students and teachers, Iverson maintains everyone’s unique value to the plot, thereby performing some excellent sleight of hand as readers learn more about the sun children. The magic of casting is well-grounded in mortal drama, since “Your casting is fueled by your body, and your body is a finite resource.” The fights are enthralling, too, as when a sun child uses “the shadows that played across every crease of my uniform and every contour of my body.” The only drawback, if there is one, is the narrative’s familiar YA structure: sequels and school years are set up to proceed apace. Yet Iverson’s inventive plotting makes any direction seem possible.

In the crowded teens-with-powers genre, this debut sails above the rest.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2015

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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