Insightful and sensitive, a solid character study.

RUNNING SCARED

An absorbing middle-grade story of a boy trying to come to terms with his father’s death.

Sixth-grader Gregory takes the long way home from school every day to avoid passing the Jiffy Mart where his minister father died in a car accident. Gregory was in the car at the time, which further intensifies his anxiety. His friends Matt and Teisha try numerous schemes to help Gregory face his fears, but nothing works. Meanwhile, Gregory’s schoolwork has begun to suffer badly except for math, the one subject that fascinates Gregory. Even worse, news has come down that Gregory’s school will be closed, his favorite teachers might lose their jobs, and the bus for the new school will stop at the dreaded Jiffy Mart. Hoping to forestall this, Gregory gets involved in a student effort to convince the authorities to keep the school open. During their door-to-door campaign, the friends meet an eccentric elderly lady and a girl who has lost her dog, bringing them together. Finally, Gregory realizes that he must conquer his fears on his own, even as he begins to understand the worth of his new friends and his own efforts. Terrell-Deutsch writes with simplicity and a compassion for her characters that will resonate with readers. The promotion of math as fun stands out as an added bonus.

Insightful and sensitive, a solid character study. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-88995-503-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Red Deer Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the...

DEADLY PINK

Vande Velde again traps teenagers inside an authentically depicted arcade game—but here she works twists into the premise that are both amusing and crank up the danger.

As in User Unfriendly (1991) and Heir Apparent (2002), the game, called “The Land of Golden Butterflies,” is manufactured by the shadowy Rasmussem Corp. and is fully immersive, fed directly into the brain through electrodes. Into this game 14-year-old Grace Pizzelli’s big sister Emily has gone; moreover, she has refused to come out and altered the code so she can’t be forcibly ejected. As sessions that run longer than a few hours cause brain damage and death, the corporation desperately turns to Grace to follow Emily in and persuade her to leave. Reluctantly agreeing, Grace discovers to her disgust that, rather than offering the usual heroic-fantasy or science-fiction setting, this digital world has been colored in pinks and lavenders. It is stocked with (supposedly) benign magical creatures and hunky male servitors—in general, it seems designed to cater to 10-year-old would-be princesses. The idyll has gone sour, though, because thanks to Emily’s fiddling, not only have the wish-granting sprites turned nasty, but the game’s governing Artificial Intelligence has changed the Rules—disabling the “Quit” function and forcing both Grace and her already-failing sister to embark on a seemingly hopeless quest with their real lives at stake.

Emily’s motives turn out to be little more than a pretext, but the author delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the digital domain. (Science fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-73850-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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THE VISCONTI HOUSE

Whether it’s because she would rather write stories alone than hang out with her gossiping classmates or because she lives in the Visconti House, a crumbling Italianate villa (which, everyone assumes, must be haunted), Year 8 Aussie Laura Horton always feels like an outsider. When Leon Murphy, a loner in his own right, moves in with his odd grandmother, Laura notices that they have more in common than she originally thought, including wanting to solve the mystery behind Mr. Visconti, his once-ornate house and the woman he loved. Debut author Edgar’s quiet, old-fashioned storytelling, in which the children can sound older than their years, celebrates curiosity, hidden treasures and impromptu gatherings with spirited and creative family members. In the process of ferreting out the secrets of Mr. Visconti and his formerly splendid estate (with written letters, interviews and intuition rather than the Internet), Laura also discovers friendship, romance and accepting the differences in herself and others. Fans of Blue Balliett and Elise Broach’s Shakespeare’s Secret (2005) will enjoy another puzzle to solve. (author’s note) (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5019-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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