PURE DEAD MAGIC

Mary Poppins meets the Addams Family in a nonstop farce that spins readers and characters through cyberspace, from a cluttered mansion in the Scottish highlands to an elegant Italian palazzo. Three weeks earlier, paterfamilias Luciano Strega-Borgia had stormed out of StregaSchloss in a snit and mysteriously vanished. Now, with witch graduate school about to open, his grieving wife Baci is desperately in need of a nanny unfazed by the crocodile in the moat, the dragon, yeti, and griffin in the cellar, and a trio of strong-minded children ages 1, 10, and 12. Enter motherly Flora McLachlan, a cool-headed retired witch with an unusually useful Palm Pilot. There’s one crisis solved—but the plot thickens: Luciano wakes up in Italy, kidnapped by evil half-brother Don Lucifer di S’Embowelli Borgia, and, shortly before the arrival at StregaSchloss of an ill-fated squad of hitmen (one in a bunny suit) hired by Don Lucifer, young Titus and Pandora Strega-Borgia inadvertently e-mail baby Damp through Luciano’s PC. This debut fiction from Gliori (Polar Bolero, p. 497, etc.) is also the first of a projected trilogy, though it stands sturdily on its own. She fills it with incident, as well as magical transformations, nauseating messes, cartoon violence, just deserts, and an array of exaggerated characters ranging from innocent to vile, quietly competent to totally clueless. Should Lemony Snicket grow a bit stale, here’s the perfect antidote. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81410-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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Inventive worldbuilding, but way too much is left unexplained and unresolved.

ESCAPE FROM ZOBADAK

Four children find their way into another world through a hidden doorway in a mysterious old piece of furniture.

Gallagher elaborates on this oddly familiar premise by (eventually) explaining that the right sort of wooden joinery will link furniture from any place or time. Billy, his little sister Sophie and their friends Chris and Maggie discover a seemingly endless maze of hallways lined with doors and drawers full of strange artifacts by crawling into a nightstand belonging to missing Uncle Gary. The labyrinth is actually a “cabinet of curiosities” that brilliant carpenters of many generations have been building to store treasures like Excalibur and the Thunderbird Photograph. Before this is explained, however, the four children have spent many chapters wandering the halls at random—and also being menaced in the outside world by animated wooden puppets from the fictional “Zobadak Wood Company,” who are after Uncle Gary and the nightstand at the command of a shadowy figure named Brope. Along with introducing scads of enigmatic elements from flocks of aggressive crows to a mischievous fairy, the author injects artificial melodrama into the tale by having Billy and Sophie rescue their pointlessly kidnapped parents. He clumsily tries for comic relief by casting the puppets as inept Abbott-and-Costello types and with no perceptible rationale closes by having all of the adults stonewall or downplay everything that has happened.

Inventive worldbuilding, but way too much is left unexplained and unresolved. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-934133-32-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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The play’s the thing, on the boards and…beyond.

NOAH MCNICHOL AND THE BACKSTAGE GHOST

The Plattsfield-Winklebottom Memorial Sixth-Grade Players tackle Hamlet—and not the bowdlerized “No-Trauma Drama” version, either.

To be sure, “Hamlet, the Tale of a Gritty Prince Who Learns To Be Patient,” is what the inexperienced young players are handed—but hardly has oddly elusive new director Mike stepped in to sub for the annual event’s customary one (who has, with fine irony, broken her leg) than every script magically reverts to the Bard’s original and they find themselves plunged into a bloody, complicated, and much cooler scenario. But who is Mike, and how is it that he can apparently not only appear and vanish at will, but conjure elaborate sets and costumes out of thin air? Taking a cue from his erstwhile literary hero Nate the Great, Noah (aka Marcellus, Gravedigger One, Rosencrantz, and Fortinbras) sets out to solve this double mystery. Electrifyingly, Mike turns out to be a renowned stage director…who died in 2014. That’s far from the only twist that Freeman delivers on the way to a triumphant performance—and a rush of family revelations. Her characters quote Shakespeare at one another as immersive rehearsals lend hard-won insights into the play’s linguistic and thematic slings and arrows. Noah, who is Jewish, describes Plattsfield as predominantly White; there are a few students of color, including Fuli, a girl cast as Hamlet who emigrated from Nepal. Color-blind casting and race are explored to some degree.

The play’s the thing, on the boards and…beyond. (Paranormal mystery. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6290-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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