Moving, though more about the disaster itself than its human cost.

FLOODED

REQUIEM FOR JOHNSTOWN

In first-person free verse, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, residents comment on their lives and dreams before and after the catastrophic flood of 1889.

The six main voices in the cast are younger than those in Jame Richards’ similarly versified account, Three Rivers Rising (2010)—at least until the aftermath, when Andrew Carnegie and other members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, two survivors who unsuccessfully sued them for damages, Red Cross founder Clara Barton, and, most poignantly, unidentified (but perhaps previously met) victims chime in. Burg invents some characters, but everyone given a first and last name is historical, and she takes such pains to describe the flood’s direct causes and actual events in the poems that her appended note seems superfluous. The expressed feelings and words are all her own, though, and if most of the speakers sound more like mouthpieces than distinct individuals, both the intensity of the tragedy and a sense of outrage that the negligent parties escaped punishment come through clearly. Except for the personified river’s contributions, which are nature notes cast into solemn, italicized streams of one- to three-word lines, everyone’s mildly elevated language and cadence sound so much alike that without the identifying labels it’s hard to tell one from another. Still, readers will come away with a clear idea of the flood’s causes, perpetrators, and shocking toll. An absence of descriptors points to a White default.

Moving, though more about the disaster itself than its human cost. (Verse historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-54069-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

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

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. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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Narrow squeaks aplenty combine with bursts of lyrical prose for a satisfying adventure

THE GOOD THIEVES

A Prohibition-era child enlists a gifted pickpocket and a pair of budding circus performers in a clever ruse to save her ancestral home from being stolen by developers.

Rundell sets her iron-jawed protagonist on a seemingly impossible quest: to break into the ramshackle Hudson River castle from which her grieving grandfather has been abruptly evicted by unscrupulous con man Victor Sorrotore and recover a fabulously valuable hidden emerald. Laying out an elaborate scheme in a notebook that itself turns out to be an integral part of the ensuing caper, Vita, only slowed by a bout with polio years before, enlists a team of helpers. Silk, a light-fingered orphan, aspiring aerialist Samuel Kawadza, and Arkady, a Russian lad with a remarkable affinity for and with animals, all join her in a series of expeditions, mostly nocturnal, through and under Manhattan. The city never comes to life the way the human characters do (Vita, for instance, “had six kinds of smile, and five of them were real”) but often does have a tangible presence, and notwithstanding Vita’s encounter with a (rather anachronistically styled) “Latina” librarian, period attitudes toward race and class are convincingly drawn. Vita, Silk, and Arkady all present white; Samuel, a Shona immigrant from Southern Rhodesia, is the only primary character of color. Santoso’s vignettes of, mostly, animals and small items add occasional visual grace notes.

Narrow squeaks aplenty combine with bursts of lyrical prose for a satisfying adventure . (Historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1948-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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