Back-story heavy and with a large, difficult-to-keep-straight cast, this is only for fans of the original series as they age...

GOOD WISH GONE BAD

From the Star Darlings series

The Star Darlings series expands from chapter books (and television) to middle grade with this book launching the new line.

Although it takes place after the original 12 Star Darlings books, the majority of this book consists of flashbacks around the relationship of Starling Academy headmistress, Stella, and primary antagonist, Rancora. After their successful missions, Lady Stella gathers the Star Darlings to inform them of the oracle’s missing page, presumably stolen by Rancora, and the possibility that they may be called upon to stop her future schemes. Then the Star Darlings investigate and uncover the three flashback stories. The first (and most successful) takes readers to Stella’s and Cora’s school days as best friends and the betrayals that tear them apart; the second covers Stella’s wish-granting innovations and the dark cloud that hangs over the horizon; and the third describes Rancora’s schemes and nefarious activities leading right up to the original series. The wish action includes some head-scratching logic as well as simplistic takes on feminism and racial justice—but the book clearly means well. Finally back in the present timeline, the Star Darlings have a blink-and-it’s-over encounter with Rancora followed by a reiteration that they’ll need to stop Rancora again—in future installments, obviously.

Back-story heavy and with a large, difficult-to-keep-straight cast, this is only for fans of the original series as they age out of chapter books. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4847-5351-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Disney Editions

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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THE ONE AND ONLY BOB

Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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