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  • Newbery Honor Book

A CORNER OF THE UNIVERSE

In July of 1960, just as she is turning 12, Hattie Owen’s quiet, solitary summer—occupied with books, the various residents of her parents’ boarding house, small errands about town, and avoiding her grandmother—is disrupted, bringing a loss of a kind of innocence and a look at the wide borders of the world. Hattie’s autistic, emotionally challenged young uncle returns home to live with his parents after the institutional school in which he has lived half his life—and all of Hattie’s—closes permanently. Hattie’s well-to-do and severe grandparents are clearly burdened by their difficult child, but Hattie is intrigued, and charmed, by Adam’s rapid-fire way of talking, his free-associating, and his liberal use of dialogue from “I Love Lucy.” Adam’s quirky, childlike enthusiasm and his obvious delight with her endear him to Hattie immediately, as does his vulnerability to Nana’s strictures on behavior. When a carnival comes to town Hattie befriends Leila, a girl who travels in the carnival with her family, and it is Adam and Leila who together give Hattie her first birthday celebration among friends. Adam’s crush on one of the boarders at the Owens’ rooming house is the catalyst for the tragic ending, though Adam’s fundamental inability to protect his feelings in the world destroys him. His suicide and its aftermath—his siblings’ grief, his mother’s sudden remorse, Hattie’s courage to speak at his funeral—are nearly unsurprising, but moving nevertheless. In the end Hattie has had a glimpse into, as she says, “how quickly our world can swing between what is comfortable and familiar and what is unexpected and horrifying,” and she has opted for herself to live in such a world, to keep lifting the corners of the universe. Martin’s voice for Hattie is likable, clear, and consistent; her prose doesn’t falter. A solid, affecting read. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-439-38880-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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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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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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