Like comfort food for book lovers.

THE WILD BOOK

A 13-year-old boy discovers the magic of books in this enjoyable yet familiar coming-of-age tale from renowned Mexican author Villoro.

Summer begins for Juan with the terrible news of his parents’ separation. Instead of looking forward to fun times with his best friend, Juan must now pass his summer holidays with his eccentric uncle Tito, a reclusive man devoted to his vast library. When Uncle Tito names him a Lector Princeps, a reader with a powerful connection to books, Juan plunges deep into his uncle’s “labyrinth of books,” classified into distinct, enigmatic sections such as “Cheeses That Stink But Taste Delicious” and “Marmalade Is Not Money.” Framed in the past tense, with an older Juan recollecting his adventure as a lad, Villoro’s novel packs gentle wit in a minor saga. As Juan encounters books that move on their own, books that are allies, and even books that steal the contents of other books, his uncle recruits him into a search for The Wild Book, a mysterious book that eludes all readers. To find it Juan gets help from Catalina, a girl who literally leaves Juan tongue-tied. The author offers a narrative arc as traditional and archetypical as its characters, but some readers may find Juan’s adventure welcoming on its own merits. Plus, that the author and protagonist share a name adds a neat (if underutilized) wrinkle to this novel.

Like comfort food for book lovers. (Magical realism. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63206-147-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Yonder

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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