Twelve-year-olds Alec and Josie communicate with each other in the same house—100 years apart.

In 1915, Josie’s emotionally abusive mother, Lavinia, a former actress, is a well-known spiritualist, operating from their newly built home in small Edwardstown, New York, where Josie and her 6-year-old sister, Cassie, are schooled by a tutor. Alec moves into the house with his mother in 2015, after his parents’ separation. When he and new friends Danny and Harold discover a “talking board” in a drawer, they are astonished when the glass planchette begins to move: “W-E A-R-E Y-O-U-N-G L-A-D-I-E-S.” An old photographic portrait of a girl labeled “Josephine Clifford, 1915,” and the words “HELLO ALEC” carved into the attic windowsill confirm for Alec the presence of something unexplained. The connection between the children is carefully constructed and revealed, sometimes running along similar paths in their respective Novembers (1915 and 2015) and sometimes diverging. A packet of letters, hidden for a century for Alec to discover, and visits by Alec and Danny to the local library and historical archives add to the rich storyline. Lavinia’s discovery of Josie’s friendship is sinister and frightening, amping the tension, but Alec’s research allows him to reassure Josie and readers that she and Cassie will escape—and find their own futures. The book assumes a white default.

Spellbinding. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944995-61-4

Page Count: 268

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing.


From the Sunny series , Vol. 3

Sunny, in seventh grade, finds her score on the Groovy Meter taking some wild swings as her friends’ interests move in different directions.

In a motif that haunts her throughout, Sunny succumbs to a teen magazine’s personality quiz and sees her tally seesaw radically. Her BF Deb has suddenly switched focus to boys, clothes, and bands such as the Bee Gees (this is 1977)—dismissing trick-or-treating and wearing galoshes on rainy days as “babyish.” Meanwhile, Sunny takes delight in joining nerdy neighbors Lev, Brian, and Arun in regular sessions of Dungeons and Dragons (as a fighter character, so cool). The storytelling is predominantly visual in this episodic outing, with just occasional snatches of dialogue and pithy labels to fill in details or mark the passage of time; frequent reaction shots deftly capture Sunny’s feelings of being pulled this way and that. Tellingly, in the Holms’ panels (colored by Pien), Sunny’s depicted as significantly smaller than Deb, visually underscoring her developmental awkwardness. Deb’s comment that “we’re too old to be playing games like that” leads Sunny to drop out of the D&D circle and even go to the school’s staggeringly dull spring dance. Sunny’s mostly white circle of peers expands and becomes more diverse as she continues to navigate her way through the dark chambers and misty passages of early adolescence. Lev is an Orthodox Jew, Arun is South Asian, and Regina, another female friend, has brown skin.

The dice are rolling readers’ way in this third outing. (Graphic historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-23314-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.


From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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