Honest, lovely, and sad.

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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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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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