A story that features a clear educational message and diverse, engaging characters, with an aspiring scientist at its center.


Muddy Madeleine Meets an Arach-a-doo

A young science enthusiast discovers a spider and shares her excitement with her parents and classmates in Norton’s debut middle-grade novel.

Fifth-grader Madeleine Morales is known to all as “Muddy” after a messy incident at a nearby pond. When she discovers a large spider building a web outside her house, she’s instantly enamored and determined to learn everything she can about the arachnid’s habits and habitat. Muddy gets help in her pursuit of knowledge from her parents, despite Papá’s aversion to arachnids; from her teacher, who introduces new subjects with rap lyrics; and from a diverse collection of classmates. Muddy is devastated when the spider, which she named Hilandera, goes missing after a few days, but she uses further research and hypothesis-testing to discover what happened. The book’s character diversity feels natural rather than forced, and Muddy’s closest friends—Gregory, always on the hunt for snacks; Ava, who has a fondness for bathroom humor; and Javier, a devoted pet owner—make a delightful crew that’s willing to indulge Muddy’s new fascination with spiders before dragging her off for another romp in the pond. The book is sometimes a bit too enamored of its own turns of phrase; “arach-a-doo,” for example, is Ava’s rendering of “arachnid,” and after Muddy identifies a shape in Hilandera’s web as a “zigzaggin’ zipper,” she uses that label every time she refers to it. However, Norton does an effective job of introducing educational vocabulary without becoming didactic. Muddy’s blend of Spanish and English flows naturally, although one of Norton’s word choices may be inappropriate for some markets: in the book’s Mexican- and Central American-influenced Spanish,“bicho” is the appropriate word for the insects that make up Hilandera’s diet, but to Puerto Rican readers, that same word is a reference to male anatomy. This isn’t addressed in the book’s glossaries, which provide pronunciations and definitions for the Spanish words and the scientific terms throughout the text.

A story that features a clear educational message and diverse, engaging characters, with an aspiring scientist at its center.

Pub Date: March 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-940834-29-0

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Progressive Rising Phoenix Press

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Like the quiet lap of waves on the sand, the alternating introspections of two Bahamian island children in 1492. Morning Girl and her brother Star Boy are very different: she loves the hush of pre-dawn while he revels in night skies, noise, wind. In many ways they are antagonists, each too young and subjective to understand the other's perspective—in contrast to their mother's appreciation for her brother. In the course of these taut chapters concerning such pivotal events as their mother's losing a child, the arrival of a hurricane, or Star Boy's earning the right to his adult name, they grow closer. In the last, Morning Girl greets— with cordial innocence—a boat full of visitors, unaware that her beautifully balanced and textured life is about to be catalogued as ``very poor in everything,'' her island conquered by Europeans. This paradise is so intensely and believably imagined that the epilogue, quoted from Columbus's diary, sickens with its ominous significance. Subtly, Dorris draws parallels between the timeless chafings of sibs set on changing each other's temperaments and the intrusions of states questing new territory. Saddening, compelling—a novel to be cherished for its compassion and humanity. (Fiction. 8+)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1992

ISBN: 1-56282-284-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992

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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.


A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...


With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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