Agenda wends its way throughout, but this Yuletide yarn often rises into the sparkling snowdrifts of fantasy.

FATHER CHRISTMAS AND ME

From the Boy Called Christmas series , Vol. 3

It turns out that living with Father Christmas isn’t all cloudberry pie and jolly elves.

After escaping from the workhouse in The Girl Who Saved Christmas (2017), Amelia has joined Father and Mother Christmas in Elfhelm, the land powered by hope. Trouble is, she doesn’t quite fit in. As a human, she’s too large for the elf furniture, and she is terrible at school. For example, she just can’t fathom that “in elf mathematics the best answer isn’t the right one, it’s the most interesting” one. In this trilogy closer, trouble really starts when Amelia accidentally crashes a favored sleigh. The traitorous Father Vodol leaps at the opportunity to sabotage Amelia and the entirety of Christmas by setting up a newspaper called the Daily Truth in order to spread lies. At Vodol’s side are the Easter Bunny and his army of soldier rabbits. The Easter Bunny holds a festering grudge, his slogan being, “It’s time to make Easter great again.” When most of the elf population believes the fake news, Father Christmas, Amelia, and Mother Christmas must make manifest that amazing things can happen in an instant. This adventure is accompanied by cozily wonky illustrations, but militarized rabbits and the obvious political mirroring seem counterintuitive to the very heart of holiday mythology. All the human and humanlike characters are white.

Agenda wends its way throughout, but this Yuletide yarn often rises into the sparkling snowdrifts of fantasy. (Fantasy. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78689-068-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Canongate

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

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Insurmountably derivative.

THE FEAR ZONE

A mysterious evil preys on the fears of a group of kids.

The notes mysteriously arrive on Halloween, instructing eighth graders April (fat and bullied, likely white); her best friend, Andres (gay and Latinx); their former friend–turned–class bully Caroline (white); and unpopular ninth grader Deshaun (black) to go to the cemetery at midnight. Deshaun’s popular best friend, Kyle (white and gay), tags along, and the group converges on a mysterious gravesite—it’s old but also has been recently vandalized, and the dirt looks freshly disturbed. They feel compelled to dig, until they unearth a tin and hope that’s the end of a prank. But it’s no prank, and they find themselves haunted by their individual greatest fears—and in between the personalized hauntings, the malicious entity assumes the form of April’s greatest fear, a clown, which menaces, waves at, and taunts the kids. While the target audience is—by age rating—too young to have had direct exposure to Stephen King’s novel IT (1986) and its past and present cinematic adaptations, many will be familiar enough with the premise to recognize the glaring similarities. The narration alternates among the five characters, with their voices for the most part sounding all too similar. The parts dealing with the evil entity are scary without being graphic; the most effective subplot deals with an abusive home life situation. The unsatisfying ending leaves too many questions unanswered.

Insurmountably derivative. (Horror. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-57717-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Reads like a grown-up’s over-the-top effort to peddle a set of kid-friendly premises—a notion that worked for the author’s...

THE CHRISTMASAURUS

A boy asks Santa for a dinosaur and gets a life-changing experience.

Cribbing freely from any number of classic Christmas stories and films, musician/vlogger Fletcher places his 10-year-old protagonist, William, who uses a wheelchair, at the head of an all-white human cast that features his widowed dad, a girl bully, and a maniacal hunter—plus a dinosaur newly hatched from an egg discovered in the North Pole’s ice by Santa’s elves. Having stowed away on Santa’s sleigh, Christmasaurus meets and bonds with William on Christmas Eve, then, fueled by the power of a child’s belief, flies the lad to the North Pole (“It’s somewhere between Imagination and Make-Believe”) for a meeting with the jolly toymaker himself. Upon his return William gets to see the hunter (who turns out to be his uncle) gun down his dad (who survives), blast a plush dinosaur toy to bits, and then with a poster-sized “CRUNCH! GULP!” go down Christmasaurus’ hatch. In the meantime (emphasis on “mean”), after William spots his previously vicious tormenter, Brenda Payne, crying in the bushes, he forgives trespasses that in real life would have had her arrested and confined long ago. Seemingly just for laffs, the author tosses in doggerel-speaking elves (“ ‘If it’s a girl, can we call her Ginny?’ / ‘I think it’s a boy! Look, he’s got a thingy!’ ”) and closes with further lyrics and a list of 10 (secular) things to love about Christmas. Devries adds sugary illustrations or spot art to nearly every spread.

Reads like a grown-up’s over-the-top effort to peddle a set of kid-friendly premises—a notion that worked for the author’s The Dinosaur That Pooped a Planet (2017), but not here. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7330-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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