In this compact, vivid hybrid, Govenar transforms his taped and transcribed interviews with dancer Norma Miller into her account of life as a globe-traveling Lindy Hopper in the 1930s and ’40s. Young Norma danced the Charleston at her widowed mother’s 1920s rent parties, peeked into Harlem’s hopping theatres and clubs and entered every possible amateur night. Her determined apprenticeship and eight decade (and counting) career spanned the jazz and swing eras, took her to Europe and Rio and led to comedy, choreography, TV and film. Govenar captures both Miller’s remarkable experiences (including incidents of racism on the road) and her sparkling evocation of American music and dance when swing was king. French’s pictures pull out all the stops: bold, gestural strokes, chiaroscuro, canted perspective and art deco elements rekindle the era’s excitement. Lacking documentation beyond Govenar’s brief introduction, this begs to be paired with recorded music and film footage of the period. (Nonfiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-7636-2244-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2006

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.


The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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A few missed notes don’t prevent this novel from delivering a satisfying story even if the tune is familiar.


A toe-tapping fantasy novel mixes music and mystery.

Aficionados of middle-grade fantasy may find the premise recognizable: A parentless 12-year-old with unusual magical gifts is summoned to attend an elite boarding school in order to hone their craft. What makes this, YA author Khoury’s middle-grade debut, stand out is the focus on a special type of magic involving spells cast by playing musical instruments. After narrowly being accepted into Mystwick to study Musicraft with the most talented musicians in the world, Amelia Jones must prove that she has what it takes to perform musical spells and secure her spot at the school—or risk expulsion. Amelia struggles with difficult classes, mountains of homework, plus a roommate who hates her, and she quickly learns that someone—or something—seems to have it out for her. Staying at Mystwick will be more difficult than she ever imagined. Amelia’s only hope is the music she knows she is capable of creating, but she must find the courage and confidence to play it. Frenna’s lightly cartoony grayscale illustrations bring some of the pivotal scenes to life. Sparse physical descriptions paired with student names from a variety of cultures seem like a missed opportunity to describe ethnic and racial diversity explicitly; Amelia is white. Victoria, a guitarist who uses a wheelchair, is a featured secondary character.

A few missed notes don’t prevent this novel from delivering a satisfying story even if the tune is familiar. (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-62563-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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