From the Henry & Eva series , Vol. 1

A delightful mystery tinged with heartache.

Sometimes, even perfect things can fall apart.

Two months ago, Eva and Henry’s loving, playful parents—their environmentalist father and oceanographer mother—died in a boating accident off the coast of California. Now, 12-year-old Eva and Henry, almost 11, are theoretically being cared for by their Uncle Claude, aka “the Clod,” and his girlfriend, Terri “the Terrible.” These grown-ups are, not to put too fine a point on it, “jerk-faces. First class, grade A.” The pair are more concerned with image and money than they are in taking care of two children. Things take a paranormal turn when the ghosts of Eva and Henry’s great-great-great-great-grandfather and his kooky family appear with a message: Their parents’ deaths were the result of foul play. Eva and Henry begin investigating, and it soon becomes clear that someone wanted their parents out of the way, but why? And who? And are the children next? Eva directly addresses readers with introspection and irony. Her first-person, present-tense direct address pulls readers in from the scene-setting first page and carries them throughout the story. Inquisitive, high-IQ Henry is “high-functioning something-or-other,” according to Eva, but the family never allowed him to be labeled, nurturing his curiosity instead. Cleverly, the story feels like Gothic historical fiction, but it’s set in the present. Henry, Eva, and their relatives are default white; the children’s nanny, Marisol, is Guatemalan.

A delightful mystery tinged with heartache. (Paranormal mystery. 8-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-256002-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019


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

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

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. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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