SUMMERLOST

A year after losing two family members, a girl spends the summer in a small town with a Shakespeare festival.

Mom buys a summer house for herself, 12-year-old Cedar, and 8-year-old Miles in Iron Creek, where Mom grew up. It’s been a year since a drunk driver killed Cedar’s father and other little brother, Ben. As Cedar gets a job selling concessions at the Shakespeare festival, makes a friend named Leo, and finds herself and Miles obsessed with a morbid soap-opera arc on TV, Condie touches everything lightly but deftly with the family’s grief. Leo and Cedar research—and give unauthorized tours about—a long-dead, famous actress from the town; Cedar’s pulled by that research because she knows, now, that things can disappear forever. Ben was disabled (maybe autistic), and their relationship was sometimes difficult. Her relationship with Miles is stolid and understatedly touching. Details are careful and never extraneous; there’s a reason it matters, at a certain moment, that “the milk was perfectly cold and the bananas not too ripe” in a bowl of cereal. Despite indicating that Cedar bonds with Leo because they’re both outsiders—she as a biracial Chinese-American, he for vaguer reasons—an explanation for their friendship isn’t necessary. Although Cedar's narration as a character of color is largely convincing, white is still the default for other characters unless otherwise specified. There’s no monumental grief breakthrough, nor should there be: this is the realistic going on, day by day, after bereavement.

Honest, lovely, and sad. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-18719-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

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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Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals.

HOW TO SPEAK DOLPHIN

Is dolphin-assisted therapy so beneficial to patients that it’s worth keeping a wild dolphin captive?

Twelve-year-old Lily has lived with her emotionally distant oncologist stepfather and a succession of nannies since her mother died in a car accident two years ago. Nannies leave because of the difficulty of caring for Adam, Lily’s severely autistic 4-year-old half brother. The newest, Suzanne, seems promising, but Lily is tired of feeling like a planet orbiting the sun Adam. When she meets blind Zoe, who will attend the same private middle school as Lily in the fall, Lily’s happy to have a friend. However, Zoe’s take on the plight of the captive dolphin, Nori, used in Adam’s therapy opens Lily’s eyes. She knows she must use her influence over her stepfather, who is consulting on Nori’s treatment for cancer (caused by an oil spill), to free the animal. Lily’s got several fine lines to walk, as she works to hold onto her new friend, convince her stepfather of the rightness of releasing Nori, and do what’s best for Adam. In her newest exploration of animal-human relationships, Rorby’s lonely, mature heroine faces tough but realistic situations. Siblings of children on the spectrum will identify with Lily. If the tale flirts with sentimentality and some of the characters are strident in their views, the whole never feels maudlin or didactic.

Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-67605-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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