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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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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Chills and thrills aplenty.

ESCAPE GREENLAND

From the Wonder List Adventures series , Vol. 2

Two young travelers find wonder and terror on the spectacular Kangia Icefjord.

After surviving both natural hazards and hijacking by wildlife smugglers in Escape Galápagos (2019), the adventures continue for 13-year-old Ezzy Skylar and her younger brother, Luke. No sooner do they arrive with their dad in Ilulissat on Greenland’s western coast than they are embroiled in further eco-themed bad behavior. Ezzy and Luke find themselves shot at, left in a locked room, forced to make their way through a deadly iceberg field (once on foot and later by boat), and, most thrilling of all, kayaking wildly through the glacier’s interior down a meltwater tunnel. At last, however, they uncover an unethical plan to stimulate the local trade in tourists eager to see melting glaciers. Encounters with fetching sled dog puppies, impressive humpback whales, and enormous mosquitoes add lighter notes to these misadventures, and frequent references to climate change and its effects supply a unifying theme. Prager closes with notes on what is real (the science and most of the setting) and what is made up in the story. Main characters present White; some supporting characters are cued (though not named) as Inuit. The Skylar children’s judgmental statements about traditional food and hunting practices are presented with little context to help readers understand Native Greenlandic perspectives. Illustrations not seen.

Chills and thrills aplenty. (maps) (Eco-fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-943431-70-0

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Tumblehome Learning

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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