A delightful mystery tinged with heartache.

HENRY & EVA AND THE CASTLE ON THE CLIFF

From the Henry & Eva series , Vol. 1

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. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

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

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. 19, 2019

Did you like this book?

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more