THE UNKNOWNS

On the circular island where the Folsom Nuclear Plant is located, there sits a trailer park called Folsom Adjacent; not surprisingly, many of its colorfully boring residents work at the plant. Eleven-year-olds Diaphanta (Lady Di) and Tamir al-Khwarizmi (Tom Jones) get their wish for something exciting to happen when adults start vanishing from the population. The police department of nearby Crotona doesn’t seem to care much, and most adults in Adjacent either work too much or drink too much or both. When their best adult friend Mrs. Clarke vanishes, she seems to leave behind a clue in a math puzzle, which leads to another clue in a math puzzle, and suddenly Di and Tom are taking on Folsom officials to foil an evil plot with a little help from their…acquaintances. Carey’s debut is a brainteaser of a mystery full of quirky characters. Di and Tom are plucky outsiders with low self-esteem and overactive imaginations. By the third or fourth puzzle (they get progressively more difficult) things get a bit mathematically dense, but even reluctant mathematicians will enjoy this inheritor of The Westing Game. (Mystery. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8109-7991-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2009

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MASTERPIECE

Eleven-year-old James Terik isn’t particularly appreciated in the Pompaday household. Marvin, a beetle who lives happily with his “smothering, overinvolved relatives” behind the Pompadays’ kitchen sink, has observed James closely and knows he’s something special even if the boy’s mother and stepfather don’t. Insect and human worlds collide when Marvin uses his front legs to draw a magnificent pen-and-ink miniature for James’s birthday. James is thrilled with his tiny new friend, but is horrified when his mother sees the beetle’s drawing and instantly wants to exploit her suddenly special son’s newfound talents. The web further tangles when the Metropolitan Museum of Art enlists James to help catch a thief by forging a miniature in the style of Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer. Delightful intricacies of beetle life—a cottonball bed, playing horseshoes with staples and toothpicks—blend seamlessly with the suspenseful caper as well as the sentimental story of a complicated-but-rewarding friendship that requires a great deal of frantic leg-wiggling on Marvin’s part. Murphy’s charming pen-and-ink drawings populate the short chapters of this funny, winsome novel. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8270-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2008

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The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.

A GIRL, A RACCOON, AND THE MIDNIGHT MOON

This is the way Pearl’s world ends: not with a bang but with a scream.

Pearl Moran was born in the Lancaster Avenue branch library and considers it more her home than the apartment she shares with her mother, the circulation librarian. When the head of the library’s beloved statue of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay is found to be missing, Pearl’s scream brings the entire neighborhood running. Thus ensues an enchanting plunge into the underbelly of a failing library and a city brimful of secrets. With the help of friends old, uncertainly developing, and new, Pearl must spin story after compelling story in hopes of saving what she loves most. Indeed, that love—of libraries, of books, and most of all of stories—suffuses the entire narrative. Literary references are peppered throughout (clarified with somewhat superfluous footnotes) in addition to a variety of tangential sidebars (the identity of whose writer becomes delightfully clear later on). Pearl is an odd but genuine narrator, possessed of a complex and emotional inner voice warring with a stridently stubborn outer one. An array of endearing supporting characters, coupled with a plot both grounded in stressful reality and uplifted by urban fantasy, lend the story its charm. Both the neighborhood and the library staff are robustly diverse. Pearl herself is biracial; her “long-gone father” was black and her mother is white. Bagley’s spot illustrations both reinforce this and add gentle humor.

The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.   (reading list) (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6952-1

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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