THE TOWER AT THE END OF THE WORLD

In comparison to the original, this addition to the series begun with John Bellairs’s The House with a Clock in Its Walls (1984) falls short. Strickland seems capable of plotting a rousing world’s end full of magic and doom, using many of the same characters. Misplaced is that slight touch of self-deprecation and humor of Bellairs that made Gorey the perfect illustrator. We’re still in the 1950s and Lewis and his wizard Uncle Jonathan are off for a vacation with Rose Rita and Mrs. Zimmerman the neighboring witch. Where to go, but to the exact location of a supernatural tower that threatens the entire planet. Once again the wizard and the witch are caught up in their efforts to extricate themselves from danger and it takes the common sense of a boy and his friend to save not only themselves and the adults, but also the whole world. Tension mounts as events and clues unfold. Each step seems placed into a logical framework if you accept the rules at play, but the cast seems wooden, the narrative flat, and ultimately the fear never manages to creep into your bones. For fans of Bellairs hungry for another dose of his spellbinding mystery, this will serve to deaden the thirst, but not quench it. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-2620-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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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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Will appeal to readers who appreciate action-oriented tales.

CHARLIE THORNE AND THE LOST CITY

From the Charlie Thorne series , Vol. 2

Hints left by Charles Darwin of a world-changing discovery send a 12-year-old supergenius deep into the Amazonian rainforest.

Holed up in the Galápagos Islands and hotly pursued by both the CIA and the KGB for knowing Einstein’s most deadly secret (see Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation, 2019), Charlie decodes a message about the “Greatest Treasure in Human History,” carved by Darwin almost two centuries ago on a tortoise’s plastron, and follows further coded clues first to Quito and then on into the Peruvian wilderness—with, eventually, no fewer than four sets of secret agents and treasure hunters in her wake. What might the “Greatest Treasure” be? Gibbs plays his cards close to his chest as he employs multiple point-of-view characters to spin out a chase through crowded city streets and teeming tropical forests, punctuated by big explosions and hails of gunfire, to a climactic flurry of lurid fatalities. Though—except for the paucity of high-tech gadgets and a refreshing centering of a highly competent girl hero—comparisons with the Alex Rider series are almost inevitable, the author’s fondness for overexplaining never lets the pace build up a compelling head of steam. Also, his multilingual, ethnically ambiguous protagonist is so much smarter and more competent than any of the grown-ups that none of the pickles she gets into are more than briefly suspenseful.

Will appeal to readers who appreciate action-oriented tales. (Thriller. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4381-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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