cover image The Diamond War

The Diamond War

Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Brett Hardin. Yearling Books, $3.5 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-440-40985-4

The Castle Court Kids series launches with this sluggish, subpar girls-against-boys story. The neighborhood boys want to chop down trees to create a baseball field. The girls take great offense, as they have transformed the designated spot into The Unicorn Grove, where they sit dressed as ""maidens"" and arrange water and apples, hoping to attract a unicorn. Members of each faction initiate seemingly endless, tedious phone calls, which culminate in a confrontation embellished with some decidedly disturbing props, including a hatchet, slingshot, baseball bat and a pellet gun that one child carries ""like an assault rifle."" Finally, the shrieks of a four-year-old diffuse the showdown: a neighbor's pony has died. After its owner comforts the child, one of the boys makes her hysterical once again by telling her that its remains will be ground into ``dog meat.'' If this is an attempt at humor, it's hardly successful. But the pony's demise does serve a purpose: its grazing field is to become the baseball field, saving the grove for the girls. One expects worthier, more entertaining fare from the author of The Egypt Game and Libby on Wednesday. Ages 8-12. (June)