Action and humor make the hard lessons go down easy.

THE MAGIC TRAP

From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 5

Sibs Evan and Jessie face their toughest physical and emotional challenges yet in this concluding—and best so far—sequel to The Lemonade War (2007).

Zeroing in with uncommon perspicacity on the push-and-pull relationship between the two children—Evan a thoroughly average 10-year-old who provides the stability that his much brighter but high-strung little sister lacks—Davies casts them into a series of strenuous tests. These begin with decidedly mixed responses to the unexpected but well-timed appearance of their long-divorced and absent father just as their responsible, hardworking mother is about to cancel an important business trip for lack of child care. Unfortunately, Dad, a self-absorbed war journalist, turns out to be so lacking in the parenting department that he suddenly jets off in the night, leaving the children alone just hours before a Category 1 hurricane hits town. By leaning on each other they triumphantly survive two days of flooding and nonstop terror before airports reopen and their mother can get back. Later, she explains that though some people just aren’t “meant to be parents,” it “doesn’t make them bad, and you can still love them.” Adults will likely condemn this as undeserved mitigation for despicable behavior; child readers, being more vulnerable to parental failures, may find it a hard truth that serves as a means for both coping with and forgiving them.

Action and humor make the hard lessons go down easy. (magic-trick instructions) (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-05289-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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

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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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