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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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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THE TIGER RISING

Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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