Three true tales of adventure as grand and admirable in the telling as they were in the doing.

AROUND THE WORLD

With uncommon perception and a flair for visual drama, Phelan tracks three intrepid souls’ solo journeys around the world.

In 1884, Thomas Stevens rode a bicycle from San Francisco to Boston, and then decided to extend the outing—to Yokohama. Journalist Nellie Bly set out in 1889 to beat the 80-day schedule suggested in Jules Verne’s novel (meeting the encouraging author along the way and bettering the novel’s time by two days). Mariner Joshua Slocum took the most circuitous route, sailing over 46,000 miles between 1895 and 1898 accompanied only by poignant memories of his first wife. Adding brief bridging captions or snatches of dialogue to quoted comments from their subsequent memoirs, Phelan highlights the experiences and reflections of each in cinematic sequences of delicately drawn panels. By focusing on the travelers’ faces, he captures their distinct characters (and shared rock-steady determination) with such force and clarity that readers can’t help but be swept along by Stevens’ aggressive mustache, Bly’s steely glare at male doubters and nay-sayers, the aching heart visible behind Slocum’s tough, grizzled countenance. The author rounds off each account with an epilogue, then closes with a thoughtful note and a source list.

Three true tales of adventure as grand and admirable in the telling as they were in the doing. (Graphic nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3619-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.

HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL-NEW SEQUEL

In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last.

THE STARS BELOW

From the Vega Jane series , Vol. 4

The rebellion against an evil archmage and his bowler-topped minions wends its way to a climax.

Dispatching five baddies on the first two pages alone, wand-waving villain-exterminator Vega Jane gathers a motley army of fellow magicals, ghosts, and muggles—sorry, “Wugmorts”—for a final assault on Necro and his natty Maladons. As Necro repeatedly proves to be both smarter and more powerful than Vega Jane, things generally go badly for the rebels, who end up losing their hidden refuge, many of their best fighters, and even the final battle. Baldacci is plainly up on his ancient Greek theatrical conventions, however; just as all hope is lost, a divinity literally descends from the ceiling to referee a winner-take-all duel, and thanks to an earlier ritual that (she and readers learn) gives her a do-over if she’s killed (a second deus ex machina!), Vega Jane comes away with a win…not to mention an engagement ring to go with the magic one that makes her invisible and a new dog, just like the one that died heroically. Measuring up to the plot’s low bar, the narrative too reads like low-grade fanfic, being laden with references to past events, characters who only supposedly died, and such lines as “a spurt of blood shot out from my forehead,” “they started falling at a rapid number,” and “[h]is statement struck me on a number of levels.”

Awful on a number of levels—but tidily over at last. (glossary) (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26393-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

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