Like stockings hung by the fire, this spellbinding opus may well become a yuletide tradition.

A BOY CALLED CHRISTMAS

From the Boy Called Christmas series , Vol. 1

Young Nikolas has a grand adventure while discovering his magical destiny as Father Christmas.

Nikolas is a sweet, 12-year-old white boy who leads a hard-knock life in the woods of Finland. His mother has died, and his father, Joel is an impoverished woodcutter. Desperate for money, Joel joins a group of men on a quest to prove the existence of elves, leaving Nikolas with his ill-tempered aunt, Carlotta. Nikolas runs away to find his father, but trudging months through the woods, he faces starvation, freezing, and hopelessness. Then he comes across a reindeer with an arrow stuck in his leg. Nikolas helps him and names him Blitzen, and they continue their journey to the elf village together. Unfortunately, once located, the elves do not offer a warm welcome but instead lock Nikolas in the tower. It’s there that Nikolas discovers, with the help of a drimwick, or hope spell, that he’s become more than just the simple boy he used to be. With remarkable descriptions (“His eyebrows were sliding apart like caterpillars falling out of love”) and a bit of mischief (Blitzen likes to wee on the heads of humans as he flies over), this hits both ends of the audience’s sophistication range and has great promise as a read-aloud. The clever story is powdered with puckish illustrations and reminds humans and elves alike that goodness and kindness are a kind of magic.

Like stockings hung by the fire, this spellbinding opus may well become a yuletide tradition. (Fantasy. 6-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-55265-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A fun, new magical world that promises more adventures to come.

THE LAST FALLEN STAR

When a spell goes wrong, a girl sets out on a quest to save her sister.

Riley Oh and her sister, Hattie, are typical Korean American girls except for one thing: They know magic is real. When she turns 13 in two days, Hattie will finally become a full member of the Gom clan, able to wield magic on her own. But because Riley is adopted and saram, or nonmagical, the other clans will not allow her to have an initiation ceremony when she turns 13 in a month. Struck by this unfairness, Hattie finds a spell that will share her magic with Riley. Unfortunately, their plan goes spectacularly wrong, fracturing Riley’s community and endangering Hattie. Feeling responsible for the calamity, Riley, along with her best friend, Emmett, will do whatever it takes to make things right, whether that means striking deals with fickle magical beings or considering the help of an ostracized magical clan. Exploring familial bonds, belonging, and community, this is a fast-paced urban fantasy drawing on Korean mythology. Riley and her friends navigate Los Angeles’ Koreatown and run-ins with dokkaebi and inmyeonjo with a frantic, upbeat energy. Complications and twists keep the plot engaging and snappy. Emmett is cued as biracial (his mother was a Gom elder who married a saram with a Western surname; his father’s ethnicity is not specified).

A fun, new magical world that promises more adventures to come. (glossary) (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-05963-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents/Disney

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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