Another clever, comical story filled with fairy-tale characters' teen progeny


From the Ever After High: A School Story series , Vol. 1

The Ever After High franchise begun by Shannon Hale with The Storybook of Legends (2013) continues with a new companion series and new author.

Ever After High student princess Duchess Swan (daughter of the Swan Queen) is proud of her perfect grades and smooth ballet moves, and she is trying to come to terms with the fact that she won't have a “Happily Ever After” life but is destined to become merely a swan, albeit a royal one. Her roommate, fellow princess Lizzie Hearts, is the daughter of the Queen of Hearts of Wonderland. Duchess envies Lizzie her confidence and her future, since her foretold destiny does include a happy ending. What's more, Daring Charming, the ultrahandsome blond prince and crush object of every girl in the school—including Duchess—has an unrequited thing for Lizzie. The actual plot is pushed forward as Lizzie, Duchess and a few more students in General Villainy class battle to reach the honor of becoming the titular “Next Top Villain.” As in the previous books, humor and puns (“What the hex?”) are generously sprinkled like fairy dust throughout the story. Garnering much of the humor here is Sparrow Hood, Robin Hood's laid-back, soul-patched son, who is constantly riffing (both guitar and jokes). Readers will be mystified and perhaps frustrated that Duchess is so gaga over the empty-headed, narcissistic prince, but perhaps she will come to her swan senses in the next installment.

Another clever, comical story filled with fairy-tale characters' teen progeny . (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-40128-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid.


From the Jake the Fake series , Vol. 1

Black sixth-grader Jake Liston can only play one song on the piano. He can’t read music very well, and he can’t improvise. So how did Jake get accepted to the Music and Art Academy? He faked it.

Alongside an eclectic group of academy classmates, and with advice from his best friend, Jake tries to fit in at a school where things like garbage sculpting and writing art reviews of bird poop splatter are the norm. All is well until Jake discovers that the end-of-the-semester talent show is only two weeks away, and Jake is short one very important thing…talent. Or is he? It’s up to Jake to either find the talent that lies within or embarrass himself in front of the entire school. Light and humorous, with Knight’s illustrations adding to the fun, Jake’s story will likely appeal to many middle-grade readers, especially those who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. While the artsy antics may be over-the-top at times, this is a story about something that most preteens can relate to: the struggle to find your authentic self. And in a world filled with books about wanting to fit in with the athletically gifted supercliques, this novel unabashedly celebrates the artsy crowd in all of its quirky, creative glory.

A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52351-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Nellie Bly’s contemporary namesake does her proud.


From the Newspaper Club series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Nellie’s investigative reporting leads her to solve a mystery, start a newspaper, and learn key lessons about growing up.

Nellie’s voice is frank and often funny—and always full of information about newspapers. She tells readers of the first meeting of her newspaper club and then says, “But maybe I’m burying the lede…what Dad calls it when a reporter puts the most interesting part…in the middle or toward the end.” (This and other journalism vocabulary is formally defined in a closing glossary.) She backtracks to earlier that summer, when she and her mother were newly moved into a house next to her mother’s best friend in rural Bear Creek, Maine. Nellie explains that the newspaper that employed both of her parents in “the city” had folded soon after her father left for business in Asia. When Bear Creek Park gets closed due to mysterious, petty crimes, Nellie feels compelled to investigate. She feels closest to her dad when on the park’s swings, and she is more comfortable interviewing adults than befriending peers. Getting to know a plethora of characters through Nellie’s eyes is as much fun as watching Nellie blossom. Although astute readers will have guessed the park’s vandalizers, they are rewarded by observing Nellie’s fact-checking process. A late revelation about Nellie’s father does not significantly detract from this fully realized story of a young girl adjusting admirably to new circumstances. Nellie and her mother present white; secondary characters are diverse.

Nellie Bly’s contemporary namesake does her proud. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-9685-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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