Next book

The Case of the Missing Crown Jewels

A good-hearted, educational, and affirming adventure that might have reached its full potential with a few adjustments.

A girl and her granddad team up to solve mysteries in this debut children’s novel by a granddaughter-grandfather writing team.

When 12-year-old Keira and her grandfather, “Papa,” a retired CIA operative, discover a “magic hat” giving her encyclopedic knowledge, the Keira and Papa Detective Agency embarks on its first case: the theft of England’s crown jewels. Among the other main characters are Uncle Commish, the head of Scotland Yard; a stiff-necked secretary to the queen; and the queen herself, who is counting on the pair “to solve the greatest jewel theft in history.” The story also includes overt lessons in self-confidence and coping skills, as when Papa says to Keira, “Like you, I have a good imagination. I use it to solve problems, not avoid them, something I am sure you can learn to do as well.” At another point Keira says, “I like to get credit when I do something nice. On the other hand, the idea of just letting the recognition surface without bragging makes the deed more genuine and sincere.” However, the narrative’s momentum moves it quickly past these lessons. The intent of this junior spy adventure isn’t subtle—Martin is an activist for children at risk—but it still has an appealing mix of storytelling, education, and child-focused empowerment, all presented in a framework of humor, colorful detail, and mild action. Sometimes, however, a cloying quality distracts (“Not only are you an amazing spy, but also you have to be the kindest person I have ever known”); it’s also far too babyish for tween Keira hold her doll up for Papa to kiss. In addition, the use of the American Girl brand name, complete with a trademark symbol, reads disconcertingly like product placement. A thoughtful list of ways in which grandparents can be “a great resource, someone you can go to discuss many of the mysteries of everyday life” follows the story’s conclusion. An upcoming second installment, The Case of the Missing Key, will feature a treasure hunt set in Panama.

A good-hearted, educational, and affirming adventure that might have reached its full potential with a few adjustments.

Pub Date: June 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9908317-0-9

Page Count: 142

Publisher: DreamChaser Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2016

Next book


The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

Next book


Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister:...

A magnificently creepy fantasy pits a bright, bored little girl against a soul-eating horror that inhabits the reality right next door.

Coraline’s parents are loving, but really too busy to play with her, so she amuses herself by exploring her family’s new flat. A drawing-room door that opens onto a brick wall becomes a natural magnet for the curious little girl, and she is only half-surprised when, one day, the door opens onto a hallway and Coraline finds herself in a skewed mirror of her own flat, complete with skewed, button-eyed versions of her own parents. This is Gaiman’s (American Gods, 2001, etc.) first novel for children, and the author of the Sandman graphic novels here shows a sure sense of a child’s fears—and the child’s ability to overcome those fears. “I will be brave,” thinks Coraline. “No, I am brave.” When Coraline realizes that her other mother has not only stolen her real parents but has also stolen the souls of other children before her, she resolves to free her parents and to find the lost souls by matching her wits against the not-mother. The narrative hews closely to a child’s-eye perspective: Coraline never really tries to understand what has happened or to fathom the nature of the other mother; she simply focuses on getting her parents back and thwarting the other mother for good. Her ability to accept and cope with the surreality of the other flat springs from the child’s ability to accept, without question, the eccentricity and arbitrariness of her own—and every child’s own—reality. As Coraline’s quest picks up its pace, the parallel world she finds herself trapped in grows ever more monstrous, generating some deliciously eerie descriptive writing.

Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister: Coraline is spot on. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-97778-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

Close Quickview