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Comic horror provides adventure and a chance to save the world to 13-year-olds Charlotte and Zee. Charlotte has always been careful to remain unremarkable. She has few friends but few enemies, and does just well enough in school not to get in trouble. All that changes when her cousin Zee arrives from England. Zee is smart, polite, charismatic—and has been followed from England by a mysterious plague that afflicts kids in his vicinity with a terrible weakness. Charlotte and Zee are drawn into a conflict among the Greek gods for control of Hades; only by going down into the underworld can they heal the sick children. Though they rescue the children, unresolved questions lead the way into a second volume. Snarky wit and authorial asides, though occasionally intrusive, keep the adventure lively. A fun and funny tale of youthful heroism. (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-4169-0587-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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Easy to read and strong on sibling devotion, with frustratingly mixed messages about personal responsibility.

A boy works desperately to keep his sick little brother safe.

Twelve-year-old Timothy has a probation officer, a court-appointed psychologist, and a yearlong sentence of house arrest. He also has a 9-month-old brother who breathes through a trach tube that frequently clogs. Heavy oxygen tanks and a suction machine as loud as a jackhammer are their everyday equipment. Timothy’s crime: charging $1,445 on a stolen credit card for a month of baby Levi’s medicine, which his mother can’t afford, especially since his father left. The text shows illness, poverty, and hunger to be awful but barely acknowledges the role of, for example, weak health insurance, odd considering the nature of Timothy’s crime. The family has nursing help but not 24/7; the real house arrest in Timothy’s life isn’t a legal pronouncement, it’s the need to keep Levi breathing. Sometimes Timothy’s the only person home to do so. His court sentence requires keeping a journal; the premise that Holt’s straightforward free-verse poems are Timothy’s writing works well enough, though sometimes the verses read like immediate thoughts rather than post-event reflection. A sudden crisis at the climax forces Timothy into criminal action to save Levi’s life, but literally saving his brother from death doesn’t erase the whiff of textual indictment for lawbreaking. Even Mom equivocates, which readers may find grievously unjust.

Easy to read and strong on sibling devotion, with frustratingly mixed messages about personal responsibility. (Verse fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4521-3477-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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A quick, agreeable caper, this may spark some discussion even as it entertains.

Myla and Peter step into the path of a gang when they unite forces to find Peter’s runaway brother, Randall.

As they follow the graffiti tags that Randall has been painting in honor of the boys’ deceased father, they uncover a sinister history involving stolen diamonds, disappearances, and deaths. It started long ago when the boys’ grandmother, a diamond-cutter, partnered with the head of the gang. She was rumored to have hidden his diamonds before her suspicious death, leaving clues to their whereabouts. Now everyone is searching, including Randall. The duo’s collaboration is initially an unwilling one fraught with misunderstandings. Even after Peter and Myla bond over being the only people of color in an otherwise white school (Myla is Indian-American; mixed-race Peter is Indian, African-American, and white), Peter can’t believe the gang is after Myla. But Myla possesses a necklace that holds a clue. Alternating first-person chapters allow peeks into how Myla, Peter, and Randall unravel the story and decipher clues. Savvy readers will put the pieces together, too, although false leads and red herrings are cleverly interwoven. The action stumbles at times, but it takes place against the rich backdrops of gritty New York City and history-laden Dobbs Ferry and is made all the more colorful by references to graffiti art and parkour.

A quick, agreeable caper, this may spark some discussion even as it entertains. (Mystery. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2296-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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