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REALLY scary middle grade

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Horrifying Hymenoptera, frightening faeries, malicious magick, and creepy corpses come out to play in these chilling middle-grade novels. Steve’s baby brother comes back from the hospital sick (“there was something wrong with his heart and his eyes and his brain”) and needing lots of care, so his parents don’t pay much attention when Steve develops […]

Not-scary magic

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Not everyone wants the pants scared off of them on Halloween. Some people like their witches sweet and their HobGrackles cuddly. Sadie’s Story, the first in the Backyard Witch series by Christine Heppermann and Ron Koertge, introduces readers to nine-year-old Sadie, her cat — and the small witch who takes up residence in the plastic […]

Review of Lair of Dreams: A Diviners Novel

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Lair of Dreams: A Diviners Novel by Libba Bray High School   Little, Brown   691 pp. 8/15   978-0-316-12604-5   $19.00   g e-book ed. 978-0-316-36488-1   $9.99 Seventeen-year-old flapper Evie O’Neill (The Diviners, rev. 11/12) and friends confront another supernatural threat. As before, Bray follows multiple characters, many of them also paranormally gifted; while Evie (now a radio star […]

If you only had a brain

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Farah Mendlesohn called my attention to this bit of fuckwittery from The Guardian, in which their art critic Jonathan Jones opines that the late Terry Pratchett wrote “trash” while the equally late Günter Grass was a “true titan of the novel,” so why is everyone more sad about the passing of Sir Terry? The dumbness of this point–let’s […]

Picturing fantasy

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Funny, action-packed, thought-provoking (and sometimes all of the above), these three graphic novels and one…well, what do you call Brian Selznick’s books? take readers on fantastic adventures. Brian Selznick defined his own format with The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck. He pushes the envelope even further in The Marvels. Black-and-white drawings (over four hundred […]

Review of The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden

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The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden by Emma Trevayne Intermediate, Middle School     Simon    247 pp. 7/15     978-1-4424-9882-2     $16.99     g e-book ed. 978-1-4424-9886-0     $10.99 While out grave-robbing with his father one night, Thomas Marsden digs up a corpse that looks exactly like him, down to the birthmark on his cheek. In his […]

Transformers: Merlin and Me…Thirteen Books Later

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On a cold Colorado night twenty-one years ago, I woke up suddenly. A vivid dream had possessed me — a dream of a boy, half drowned and only barely alive, who had washed up on the shore of a strange land. He had no memory, no idea who he was. But he did have something […]

Deliciously creepy fantasy

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Magical alter egos, parallel worlds, and uncanny situations add a bit of atmospheric creepiness to these four intermediate and middle-school fantasy adventures. Twig Fowler and her mother keep to themselves so that their neighbors in Sidwell, Massachusetts, won’t discover their secret: Twig’s older brother James has wings, thanks to a generations-old curse laid upon all […]

Review of Shadow Scale

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Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman Middle School, High School   Random   600 pp. 3/15   978-0-375-86657-9   $18.99 Library ed. 978-0-375-96657-6   $21.99   g e-book ed. 978-0-375-89659-0   $10.99 With the dragon civil war closing in on Goredd, Seraphina (Seraphina, rev. 7/12) begins an uncertain mission: she and Abdo, a fellow half-dragon, embark on a journey to recruit other ityasaari […]

Review of The Darkest Part of the Forest

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The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black High School   Little, Brown   323 pp. 1/15   978-0-316-21307-3   $18.00 g e-book ed. 978-0-316-21305-9   $9.99 The people of Fairfold live beside the fairy folk with scant worry and not a little smugness. After all, only foolish tourists, lured to town by legend and the beautiful horned prince […]