THE MYSTIC PHYLES

BEASTS

Sketchy infodumps and plotting leave fancy packaging to carry the load in this elaborately decorated journal.

Impelled by a request delivered by a cat, 13-year-old orphan Abigail compiles information on 15 probably mythical beasts, from mermaids and sea monsters to bunyips, barguests and Bigfoot. Meanwhile she also records incidents in a largely unhappy life—cloistered at home by a tyrannical grandfather and afflicted at her small-town school by bullies and cliques alike. Framed as a diary that fills every square inch including the endpapers, her narrative is presented on swatches of paper interspersed with a mix of dramatic full-page creature portraits, smaller images of old prints and supplementary drawings. These last are in a more informal style, and all are neatly applied over backgrounds pre-brushed with rich colors. Her “reports” run to only a few short comments or quotes (capped at the end by a stale booklist and a more helpful set of websites). Her personal miseries are abruptly resolved by a miraculous pendant and the revelation—quickly laid out at the end and reading more like a draft scenario—that the mythical creatures are real and there’s a struggle going on between those who would hide them and others who want them exposed.

 

Pub Date: July 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-57091-718-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.

A GIRL, A RACCOON, AND THE MIDNIGHT MOON

This is the way Pearl’s world ends: not with a bang but with a scream.

Pearl Moran was born in the Lancaster Avenue branch library and considers it more her home than the apartment she shares with her mother, the circulation librarian. When the head of the library’s beloved statue of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay is found to be missing, Pearl’s scream brings the entire neighborhood running. Thus ensues an enchanting plunge into the underbelly of a failing library and a city brimful of secrets. With the help of friends old, uncertainly developing, and new, Pearl must spin story after compelling story in hopes of saving what she loves most. Indeed, that love—of libraries, of books, and most of all of stories—suffuses the entire narrative. Literary references are peppered throughout (clarified with somewhat superfluous footnotes) in addition to a variety of tangential sidebars (the identity of whose writer becomes delightfully clear later on). Pearl is an odd but genuine narrator, possessed of a complex and emotional inner voice warring with a stridently stubborn outer one. An array of endearing supporting characters, coupled with a plot both grounded in stressful reality and uplifted by urban fantasy, lend the story its charm. Both the neighborhood and the library staff are robustly diverse. Pearl herself is biracial; her “long-gone father” was black and her mother is white. Bagley’s spot illustrations both reinforce this and add gentle humor.

The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.   (reading list) (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6952-1

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Readers will need to strap on their helmets and prepare for a wild ride.

WILD RIVER

Disaster overtakes a group of sixth graders on a leadership-building white-water rafting trip.

Deep in the Montana wilderness, a dam breaks, and the resultant rush sweeps away both counselors, the rafts, and nearly all the supplies, leaving five disparate preteens stranded in the wilderness far from where they were expected to be. Narrator Daniel is a mild White kid who’s resourceful and good at keeping the peace but given to worrying over his mentally ill father. Deke, also White, is a determined bully, unwilling to work with and relentlessly taunting the others, especially Mia, a Latina, who is a natural leader with a plan. Tony, another White boy, is something of a friendly follower and, unfortunately, attaches himself to Deke while Imani, a reserved African American girl, initially keeps her distance. After the disaster, Deke steals the backpack with the remaining food and runs off with Tony, and the other three resolve to do whatever it takes to get it back, eventually having to confront the dangerous bully. The characters come from a variety of backgrounds but are fairly broadly drawn; still, their breathlessly perilous situation keeps the tale moving briskly forward, with one threatening situation after another believably confronting them. As he did with Wildfire (2019), Newbery Honoree Philbrick has crafted another action tale for young readers that’s impossible to put down.

Readers will need to strap on their helmets and prepare for a wild ride. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-64727-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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