Juniper Harvey and the Vanishing Kingdom

Little, Brown. Feb. 2023. 320p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316706780.
Gr 4-6–Juniper Harvey, 12, brown-eyed and white, has recently moved from Texas to Florida. As if the humidity and loneliness wasn’t enough, she’s having a strange recurring dream about a temple and girl turning into ivory. Soon, however, she discovers magic in her artwork and realizes her dream is a reality from a different world; the beautiful tawny-skinned, stormy-eyed girl she drew lands in her room one night. Galatea is from Kypros; her sky island is disappearing, she has lost the crown that allowed her the travel through worlds, and she believes the goddess of dreams is responsible. Juniper and Galatea begin to search for a solution, although it might not be the one they expect. Can sixth graders save a world? Will Juniper figure out the feelings she is having for Galatea? This story is a nod to the myth Pygmalion and Galatea. Readers will appreciate the mythology, and the final action scenes with warring gods is exciting, but the magic and worldbuilding is inconsistent, leaving the text feeling unfinished and facts unmatched. Additionally, Juniper as first-person narrator repeats that she isn’t good with words, but there are long descriptive passages of place and action that do not sound like a middle schooler’s voice. Ruminations on her blossoming feelings for Galatea are too mature and insightful, while Galatea’s familiarity with the modern world also varies wildly from scene to scene. Much of the dialogue is stilted, and repetition within the text makes the first half drag. Some aspects—such as two instant friends and their intense willingness to help—seem too convenient.
VERDICT While the mythology and fantasy in this story might be appealing, portions of the plot are incomplete and characters are inconsistent in their development and voice.

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