THE MYSTERIOUS WOODS OF WHISTLE ROOT

A strange, whimsical debut that may never quite convince readers why they should care about it.

Carly Bean Bitters is a likable 11-year-old with a strange malady: She is awake at night and sleeps during the day. This allows her to notice a strange phenomenon—a squash that appears on her roof. Carly soon meets Lewis, a musician and a rat, who explains that the squash is a member of his band, taking the place of a rat who has been abducted by owls. When Lewis introduces Carly to the other members of his rat community in the Whistle Root woods, she learns that the owls’ current behavior is abnormal—they used to dance to the rats’ moonlight tunes before they suddenly began snatching them. Thus begins a bizarre journey for Carly, who must discover the reason behind the owls’ sudden change of heart and other strange occurrences in the woods and her town. Though the back story behind the Whistle Root wood and various characters’ behavior is eventually explained, the explanations themselves are often disjointed and don’t quite add up. This feeling of arbitrariness makes it hard for readers to engage with the rats’ plight. While this quiet book achieves a timeless feel—being identifiably set neither in our world nor in another—this cannot atone for a history of the magical woods and creatures that sometimes feels nonsensical. (Fantasy. 8-10)

 

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-79263-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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A decent start to a silly sci-fi series.

ALIEN SUPERSTAR

From the Alien Superstar series , Vol. 1

An extraterrestrial teen refugee becomes a Hollywood star.

Citizen Short Nose, a 13-year-old, blue-skinned, six-eyed, bipedal ET, has left his home world in an effort to escape the authoritarian forces that reign there. The teen runaway lands his spacecraft in the middle of Universal Studios and easily blends in among the tourists and actors in movie costumes. Citizen Short Nose quickly changes his name to Buddy C. Burger and befriends Luis Rivera, an 18-year-old Latinx actor who moonlights as Frankenstein on the Universal lot. Inspired to be an actor by his grandmother Wrinkle’s love of Earth culture, Buddy lands a gig on Oddball Academy, playing (of course) an alien from another world. On set, Buddy befriends Cassidy Cambridge, the brown-skinned teen star of the show. Buddy balances keeping his true identity secret (everyone just assumes he’s wearing an alien costume) with becoming an overnight sensation. The book is efficiently written, moving the story forward so quickly that readers won’t have time to think too hard about the bizarre circumstances necessary for the whole thing to work. This series opener’s big problem is the ending: The story just stops. Characters are established and plot mechanics are put together, but the book basically trusts readers to show up for the next installment. Those enamored with Hollywood gags and sci-fi plot boiling will probably be engaged enough to do so.

A decent start to a silly sci-fi series. (Science fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3369-7

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Gentle, encouraging, witty fantasy that may soothe readers suffering from climate anxiety.

THE GOLDEN SWIFT

From the Silver Arrow series , Vol. 2

Children with magical talking steam trains are thrilled by their clever new plan to rescue endangered animals.

Eleven-year-old Kate absolutely adores her secret job—helping animals in need by using the magical locomotive that was a gift from her billionaire wizard uncle. Kate loves riding the Silver Arrow with Uncle Herbert; her brother, Tom; and the talking animals they escort to safe places. But now Uncle Herbert is missing, 9-year-old Tom seems more interested in hapkido than their supernatural train, and Kate’s struggling socially and academically thanks to her eco-anxiety. No matter how many animals she helps, no matter how many adults proclaim that climate change is a critical issue, the environment keeps getting worse. One night Kate discovers another train driving on the magical railroad: The Golden Swift is conducted by her classmate Jag, who thinks rescuing stranded creatures isn’t sufficiently radical. When Kate joins him, she feels more inspired and more righteous than ever before. This time, she’s actually making the world better! Kate’s unhappy discoveries of unintended consequences and the moral complexities of her activism are softened by humor. The snarky banter of the talking locomotive is an understated delight, as is the train constructed with, among others, candy and ice cream cars, an invisible car, and a dojo car. Kate and Tom are White; Jag is described as having dark skin and black hair and possibly being Indian. Charming illustrations enhance the text.

Gentle, encouraging, witty fantasy that may soothe readers suffering from climate anxiety. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-28354-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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