A well-written and entertaining fantasy tale about a heroic bookworm.

Rafe Rebellius and the Clash of the Genres

In this debut novel, a boy moves with his family from Chicago to the quaint little town of Greenfort, where he begins a journey into a larger and stranger world.

Rafe Rebellius is the son of intrepid parents who’ve moved with him from state to state, but it’s in Greenfort that his destiny starts to truly bloom. He immediately meets a bushy-browed Druid and an attractive, age-appropriate, mechanical-seeming girl named Fem. He runs afoul of bullies, peruses Jack London, and notices that the things he reads truly envelop his life: if it’s snowy cold in his book, he breathes out a frosty fog himself. When Rafe’s mom and dad rush off on one of their escapades, leaving him alone in Greenfort, he makes new friends, learns more about his own connection to the worlds inside stories, and decides he must help combat the machinations of the gray witch and save his new home (“One part of him wanted to run up and hide in his room. But another part—a big part—couldn’t stand the thought of staying out of the fight”). The story brings together characters from fantasy, sci-fi, Westerns, hard-boiled detective tales, and other genres. Without wasting too much verbiage, the volume lets young readers (and mature ones) see the differences between all the styles of popular storytelling and the ways they can clash and harmonize. The book is short, smart, charmingly illustrated, fast-paced, and packed with a great deal of fun. The text is generally clean and polished, with the occasional part that cries out for an editor (“ ‘Mertz Glacier is going to calve!’ his father said, his eyes dancing in his head”). The work doesn’t shy away from the harder edges of the various genres but softens them up a little for a YA audience (“ ‘No way!’ said Rafe. ‘You were a cop who went to prison for a crime you didn’t commit?’…‘Not exactly’ ”). Lowery inserts a bit of rough violence that darkens the narrative, but he gives the episode gravity, and it helps clarify that genuine adventure means real danger. The result is a light confection that celebrates reading, writing, and the daydreaming that comes from books.

A well-written and entertaining fantasy tale about a heroic bookworm.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: South House Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2016

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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