A gentle novel perfect for middle graders looking for a summer read. (Fiction. 10-13)

READ REVIEW

SUMMER AT MEADOW WOOD

Eleanor Roosevelt and gardening both prove to be unexpected sources of inspiration for 13-year-old Vic, who finds herself reluctantly back at the summer camp she’s attended for years after she learns her parents are having marriage difficulties.

Despite the friends Vic has made over the years at Meadow Wood, she’d hoped to spend a laid-back summer at home with her bestie, Jamie (whose story is told in A Kind of Paradise, 2019, which is not a prerequisite for this stand-alone), and is furious that she and her brother were shipped off as a matter of convenience for her mom. Slowly, with the help of her curmudgeonly but caring counselor Chieko, who is brooding over her own recent breakup with her girlfriend, and the mentoring of diligent camp co-director Earl, Vic begins to see a way through her struggles. If at times these worthwhile life lessons are a bit heavy-handed, many other elements in this warmhearted novel are likely to charm middle-grade readers, including the quirkily funny, brainy younger camper Vera whom Vic takes under her wing and a kind Latinx boy named Angel, who becomes a sweet first love interest when she meets him at the local farmers market. Vic and Vera are white, and there is some realistic ethnic diversity represented in secondary characters, conveyed both via description and naming convention (Chieko is likely of Japanese heritage, for instance).

A gentle novel perfect for middle graders looking for a summer read. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-279545-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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