This engaging tale will challenge middle-grade readers who love mysteries and a good fright.



This middle-grade debut novel stars a boy who inherits a house full of magical secrets from his uncle.

Enoch Wildwood, resident of the Gnomewood Home, has been murdered. This means that his sixth grader nephew, Danny Hallow, must drive with his guardians from Easton, Maryland, to Eddystone, New Hampshire, for the will reading. Danny’s father is deceased and his mother left, so his Keepers, Gloria Jean Grace, Silas Murray, and Ali Ramirez, protect him well. Often bullied at school, Danny’s one friend is the brown bat Max. Danny can communicate with Max. The boy also has a Just Know ability, a psychic talent that makes him sharper than most children. When Enoch’s will reveals that Danny is the sole inheritor of Gnomewood, the Keepers decide to settle in Eddystone despite the frigid weather and a rash of pet disappearances. Danny quickly makes two friends his age, Church McGee and Unwen Shaw. One day, they’re playing near a frozen creek when Unwen loses her shoe on the ice. As Danny tries to retrieve it, he sees a small robed creature snatch the shoe. Danny then falls through the ice only for Ezra Harker, a ragamuffin boy with a reputation for stealing, to rescue him. Ezra tells Danny the creature is a goblin, one of many terrorizing Eddystone. Is there a connection between Enoch’s death and these unsavory beings? Norton, who infuses his book with the small-town eeriness found in Stephen King’s work, delights in connecting the dots for well-read younger audiences. Danny’s family has an elaborate backstory, much of it explained by the Keepers, about clans with tremendous power who came through a portal. The source of Danny’s abilities—and their potentially dire consequences—rides the Chosen One trope while blending elements of fantasy, horror, and SF. But younger readers may be intimidated by the detailed plotting in this series starter. Scenes involving the children hunting goblins, away from the adults, work best because they advance the plot with suitable drama. Norton clearly wants to entertain a mixed-ages audience, yet the Keeper-heavy scenes slow the pace.

This engaging tale will challenge middle-grade readers who love mysteries and a good fright.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-71809-130-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2020

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.


From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick.

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An elderly witch, a magical girl, a brave carpenter, a wise monster, a tiny dragon, paper birds, and a madwoman converge to thwart a magician who feeds on sorrow.

Every year Elders of the Protectorate leave a baby in the forest, warning everyone an evil Witch demands this sacrifice. In reality, every year, a kind witch named Xan rescues the babies and find families for them. One year Xan saves a baby girl with a crescent birthmark who accidentally feeds on moonlight and becomes “enmagicked.” Magic babies can be tricky, so Xan adopts little Luna herself and lovingly raises her, with help from an ancient swamp monster and a chatty, wee dragon. Luna’s magical powers emerge as her 13th birthday approaches. Meanwhile, Luna’s deranged real mother enters the forest to find her daughter. Simultaneously, a young carpenter from the Protectorate enters the forest to kill the Witch and end the sacrifices. Xan also enters the forest to rescue the next sacrificed child, and Luna, the monster, and the dragon enter the forest to protect Xan. In the dramatic denouement, a volcano erupts, the real villain attempts to destroy all, and love prevails. Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces. Luna has black eyes, curly, black hair, and “amber” skin.

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-567-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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