Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Catalyst, Artemis Fowl

Durst, Sarah Beth. Catalyst
June 9th 2020 by Clarion
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Right before her 12th birthday, Zoe finds a very tiny kitten out by her family's garage. She has always been fond of animals and has brought home a large number of strays, but her parents put an end to that after the unfortunate incident with the skunk. Figuring it is better to ask forgiveness than permission, Zoe brings in the tiny kitten, names him Pipsqueak, and introduces her new pet to her best friend and next door neighbor, Harrison. The two make plans for the animal, and Zoe tells her parents, who reluctantly agree to let her keep the kitten, since she is so distraught about her older brother going away to college in France. Things are great... until Pipsqueak starts to grow at an alarming rate! Zoe does the responsible thing and takes him to the vet, who doesn't see a problem. As Pipsqueak continues to grow and starts to talk to them, Zoe know she needs to make a plan, and reaches out to her Aunt Alecia, who lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and has had a falling out with Zoe's mother. When there are local reports of a green flying poodle who looks a lot like a dog Zoe saw at the vet's, she knows she needs to act. Along with Harrison's cousin, Surita, she convinces her parents that she really wants to go away to the summer camp where Surita is a counselor, and uses this time to travel, via Pipsqueak, to her aunt's. Along the way, she encounters other animals who seems to have powers as well. Will her aunt be able to shed some light on these odd events and help her out?
Strengths: I loved Zoe's family. Her parents were busy with work, but really cared about her. They want to protect her, but also want her to have some freedom. And they have "second cake", which is such a good idea! (Eating another piece of birthday cake after party guests leave.) Her older brother is also great, and understands why she is sad he is going off to college. Pipsqueak is very amusing, although we needed Betty Brock No Flying in the House style illustrations to show how adorable she was. Harrison was a good foil for Zoe, and hearing their list of things to pack for running away was hysterical. I loved that his last name was Acharya-- I have students with that last name! All in all, this was a fast-paced, engaging fantasy novel that cat lovers will adore.
Weaknesses: It would have helped to know a little more about Aunt Alecia before they took off. That's a long way to travel to see someone who hasn't been that interested in you.
What I really think: I love that Durst writes intriguing stand alones like Spark (2019), The Stone Girl's Story (2017), and Enchanted Ivy (2010). What cat lover doesn't want to adopt a tiny kitten who grows ala Clifford the Big Red Dog and is the key to finding out about one's emerging powers? The cover alone will sell it to my Warriors fans, most of whom will read anything with a cat on the cover. Myself, I would have liked this better had the green poodle been the main character, although the shark teeth were not very attractive!

Manning, Matthew K. Artemis Fowl: How to be a LEPrecon
Published June 25th 2019 by Disney Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Nearly twenty years after its original publication, Artemis Fowl is a movie! It's apparently on Disney Plus, so readers who are determined to read the book before watching a film version will have a renewed interest in this classic fantasy series.

Instead of focusing on Artemis, the evil criminal mastermind at war with the fairy realm in the seven book series, this guide book is meant to be a translation and interpretation of the fairy tome, The Book of the People, and there a number of side notes from Holly Short, one of the main fairy characters, littering the pages.

There are several catalogs in the book that are very helpful, especially if its been a while since one has read the series. There are descriptions, with very nice drawings, of the different creatures that people the fairy realm, similar entries of the main characters in the books, complete with their characteristics and main accomplishments, and a really fun section detailing all of the gadgets and buildings used in the books. The pencil drawings by Andre Pelaes and Carlos Tron really bring the characters and settings to life.

In addition to these descriptions, there are some illustrative stories offered by way of illuminating certain parts of the manual. We hear from Jeffrey Wigglebottom, who was seen by Mud People, Pidge Plank, who tells a cautionary tale of trying to enter a human dwelling without permission, and an incident report from Officer Root about why its important to fully understand one's equipment. These are fun auxiliary tales to get back into the swing of the series, if it hasn't been read in a while.

The Artemis Fowl (2001) series, along with the newer The Fowl Twins (2019) series, is a nuanced, action packed, well-written set of books that never fully define which side is good, and which side is evil. Artemis is at odds with the L.E.P.Recon and other forces, and I've never been completely convinced that he's the good guy. This is a little unusual, but makes for riveting reading. Readers who enjoy this ambiguity in Salane's Lawless series, Walden's HIVE, and Buckley's National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (NERDS, #1) will look forward to either reading Colfer's original series or watching the television show, and can supplement their knowledge with this helpful guide.

Donkin, Andrew. Guide to the World of Fairies
April 14th 2020 by Disney Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

"Written" by dwarf Nord Diggums with contributions from experts in the field of magical creatures such as Professor Ivana Therey and Dr. Belleva Best, this guide sheds light on a variety of beings who appear in the world of Artemis Fowl so that Mud People (humans) can understand their ways. There are chapters on Trolls, Elves, Pixies, Sprites, etc., as well as a chapter on Fairy Technology. Each chapter includes a Spotter's Guide with quick information to use for identification if a creature is spotted in the wild, and also has lengthier information about the uniform, rituals, and abilities. Encrypted messages from Artemis Fowl are also included.

There are full color illustrations through out the book covering a wide range of activities and settings, as well as a few bits of Gnommish writings, including a great chart of the alphabet. This would be quite useful for fans of the Artemis Fowl series to use both to decode text in the novels or to write each other encrypted notes!

There are not as many stories and anecdotes in this companion title as there are in Manning's Artemis Fowl: How to be a LEPrecon, but there is more information about various entities provided in a larger format with a more leisurely tone. I can see this being a great resource for fan art drawings, and would be excellent fun for a die hard fan to dip into for a refresher when rereading the novels in preparation for the show on Disney Plus.

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