A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO

From the Grandma Dowdel series , Vol. 1

In a novel that skillfully captures the nuances of small-town life, an elderly man reminisces about his annual trips from Chicago to his grandmother’s house in rural Illinois during the Depression. When the book opens, Joey and his sister, Mary Alice, nine and seven, respectively, learn that they will be spending a week every August with Grandma Dowdel. In eight vignettes, one for each summer from 1929—1935, with the final story set when Joey’s troop train passes through in 1942, Peck (Strays Like Us, 1998) weaves a wry tale that ranges from humorous to poignant. Grandma Dowdel, with her gruff persona and pragmatic outlook on life, embodies not only the heart of a small town but the spirit of an era gone by. She turns the tables on a supercilious reporter from the big city, bests the local sheriff, feeds the drifters of the Depression, inspires a brawl between elderly (ancient) war heroes, and more. Peck deftly captures the feel of the times, from the sublime bliss of rooting around the ice bin at the local store for a nickel Nehi during the dog days of summer, to a thrilling flight in a biplane. Remarkable and fine. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8037-2290-7

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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A fully imagined world, a wider cast of engaging characters, and a satisfying resolution all help this sequel add up to an...

IN A DARK LAND

From the Changelings series , Vol. 2

Izzy and her friends must once again band together to overcome an evil plan.

Despite the revelation that she is a fairy—a changeling—Izzy decided to return home to her human family at the end of series opener The Changelings (2016). At summer camp with her human, white younger sister, Henrietta, known as Hen, Izzy still misses the magic of the Faerie world and the friends she made there. Summoned to assist in fighting a new danger, Izzy struggles to recapture her magical abilities while fighting familiar feelings of self-doubt. Hen, initially left behind, finds her way to Faerie to help and winds up playing a vital role. Soontornvat’s story unfolds smoothly, but readers unfamiliar with the first volume may struggle somewhat to follow the action. Intriguing new elements—most notably the underwater Fen Whelps who reveal a crucial detail to the two sisters—add interest. As in the first book, it’s an individual who threatens destruction and cooperation that carries the day. A strong connection to nature, the importance of recognizing and using one’s own talents for the greater good, and the importance of family connections, however they are forged, are elements that will enhance the appeal for thoughtful fantasy readers.

A fully imagined world, a wider cast of engaging characters, and a satisfying resolution all help this sequel add up to an enjoyable, if not stand-alone, read. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-3421-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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A heaping plateful of adventure, spiced to perfection with dangers, deft humor and silly bits.

THE TRAVELING RESTAURANT

JASPER'S VOYAGE IN THREE PARTS

From the Tales of Fontania series , Vol. 1

A seemingly ordinary lad boards a seagoing eatery and is swept up in a series of flights and pursuits that lead him to a higher destiny than he expects (or even wants, particularly).

Having banished all magic (even mention of the word) from the realm of Fontania, evil Lady Gall is on her way to removing the “Provisional” from her title of “Provisional Monarch.” Her attempt to poison Jasper’s beloved little sister Sibilla pitches his secretive extended family into hurried flight. Outraged and confused, Jasper is somehow left behind—but wangles a berth aboard the Traveling Restaurant, a floating diner painted like a circus wagon, and sets out to catch up. Else arranges her narrative into short chapters with titles like “This Is When It Becomes Fraught” and strews it with pirates, wild waters, sudden twists of fortune, family revelations and scrumptious tucker (Jasper finds a snatched chunk of salami “a farmyard of deliciousness in one mouthful”). She sets her quick-witted protagonist on a course that not only sharpens his already-considerable culinary skills but gives him a central role in rescuing his shipwrecked family, decisively scotching Lady Gall’s schemes and restoring magic to the land. Jasper does this with help from a supporting cast stocked with likable enemies, sometimes-unlikable allies and one particularly perspicuous toddler.

A heaping plateful of adventure, spiced to perfection with dangers, deft humor and silly bits. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-8775-7903-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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