A solid third installment.

THE WITCH'S APPRENTICE

From the Dragons in a Bag series , Vol. 3

Jaxon and company return in this follow-up to The Dragon Thief (2019).

Jax is frustrated with Ma, the witch he’s apprenticed to. Instead of teaching him about magic, she’s teaching him about plants. Then, mysterious ash starts falling from the sky and the adults of New York City start falling asleep all over the place, just as Ma, Jax, and Ma’s coven leave Brooklyn for the annual convention in Chicago. Jax’s first-person narration chronicles his frustrations with Ma, which go beyond her unwillingness to teach him magic to a deeper theme: adults who don’t communicate thoroughly with children and don’t allow children agency. When a face from the past shows up and challenges his assumptions, Jax begins questioning much of what he’s been told—and believes. In the end, Jax must decide whether using his voice or following orders is more important, but the consequences may be steeper than he bargained for. While the themes are compelling, the plot unfortunately relies on the device of miscommunication to propel it. Apart from this, fans will be happy to return to Jax’s story (and encounter a new magical creature). The cliffhanger ending points to a future series entry. Most characters are Black; some names cue South Asian heritage.

A solid third installment. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-42770-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

Did you like this book?

more