A wonderfully imaginative, playful, and layered tale.

THE TALE OF BRIAN AND THE HOUSE PAINTER MERVYN

A FABLE FOR CHILDREN AND THEIR PARENTS

A young boy meets a mysterious painter with wondrous abilities in Lee’s novel.

Brian Jones is the son of the wealthiest man in the small village of Sandstone-by-the-Sea. His father, Moab, and mother, Melissa, and his 12 other siblings fill the house of “Goodly Home on the edge of the Sea Cliffs.” Brian becomes ill with a mysterious disease that the local doctor can’t cure. On the fourth floor of the Goodly Home, Brian’s life drains of all excitement. Desperate to cure his son, Moab seeks out an artist to fill Brian’s white room “with all the things [he] like[s] just as they are” so that he may begin to get better. When Moab finds Mervyn—an angry, muttering artist with an unusual talent for painting things realistically—he hires him to paint the walls of his son’s tower. Mervyn works for a week and produces such a lifelike display of the outside world that Brian’s family is in awe. Before long, people in the village of Sandstone-by-the-Sea become desperate for a piece of Mervyn’s magic, and when the villagers begin to turn against him, he does something quite unexpected. Lee’s marvelous imagination engagingly contrasts a portrayal of a rich family with the villagers’ simple desire for access to the same magic that the family receives. Despite the lack of variety in sentence length, Lee’s prose effectively propels the narrative to an explosive climax in which he subtly notes how unusual it is for people to chase something outside of the social norm. So’s illustrations are both vibrant and abstract, and they assist in painting a detailed portrait of both the village and the characters. Together, So and Lee create a topsy-turvy story of a genius ahead of his time.

A wonderfully imaginative, playful, and layered tale.

Pub Date: April 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-578-33828-6

Page Count: 68

Publisher: Lwl Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2022

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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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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

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BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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