A dark vision with optimistic, even puckish, strains burnishes a unique legacy.

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NONSTOP

The great maverick illustrator sends Earth’s last two beings on a dreamlike odyssey in this posthumous and, possibly, final outing.

Through empty streets wanders Vasco, aimlessly following his long shadow—which guides him safely past toppling buildings, sudden floods, and other dangers to an abandoned hospital, where he finds and takes charge of Poco, a green, insectile child. Everyone else has, as the spare narrative has it, “gone to the moon,” and even the plants and animals have disappeared. All that is left are desolate land- and cityscapes, infused in the illustrations with low-angled light and feelings of loneliness. Together the adult and child make their way through further hazards ranging from a refinery on the brink of collapse to a cluster of tree-eating military tanks, on the way at last to a “phantasmagorical” new home…which turns out to be a giant cake where the two remain, “sheltered in peace” thereafter. Though catastrophes to be escaped (as the refrain has it) “JUST IN TIME!” rear up with titular frequency, they are so neatly drawn as to have a ritualistic air, not so much creating dramatic highlights as checking off surreal disasters natural or otherwise. The two figures are drawn generally back to viewers and remain tiny on the page, but they still draw both eye and heart as, holding resolutely on to each other, they weather every threat to reach safe harbor at last. “DON’T HOPE COPE” reads a sign that Vasco passes in one scene. As last words go, not bad.

A dark vision with optimistic, even puckish, strains burnishes a unique legacy. (Picture book. 9-up)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-83866-159-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Phaidon

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes.

THE TOWER OF NERO

From the Trials of Apollo series , Vol. 5

In this tumultuous series closer, Apollo, transformed into a mortal teenager, takes on both a deified emperor in a luxurious Manhattan high-rise and an older adversary.

Lester/Apollo’s coast-to-coast quest reaches its climactic stage as, with help from both eager squads of fledgling demigods from Camp Half-Blood and reluctant allies from realms deep below New York, he invades the palatial lair of Emperor Nero—followed by a solo bout with another foe from a past struggle. Riordan lays on the transformation of the heedless, arrogant sun god to a repentant lover of his long-neglected semidivine offspring and of humanity in general, which has served as the series’ binding theme, thickly enough to have his humbled narrator even apologizing (twice!) to his underwear for having to change it periodically. Still, the author delivers a fast, action-driven plot with high stakes, lots of fighting, and occasional splashes of gore brightened by banter and silly bits, so readers aren’t likely to mind all the hand-wringing. He also leaves any real-life parallels to the slick, megalomaniacal, emotionally abusive Nero entirely up to readers to discern and dishes out just deserts all round, neatly tying up loose ends in a set of closing vignettes. The supporting cast is predominantly White, with passing mention of diverse representation.

A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes. (glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4645-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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