A deliciously sinister read.

The residents of Oakdale, Ohio, don’t take kindly to strangers, and when Dr. Kingsbury and his assistants roll into town in October 1887 peddling Dr. Kingsbury’s Miraculous Tonic, folks are suspicious.

Thirteen-year-old Jack has traveled with the doctor ever since the tonic brought his little sister, Lucy, back from the brink of death. His work not only helps support his family, but repays their debt to the doctor. But when 16-year-old Isaac, his fellow assistant, mysteriously runs away, Jack discovers a darker side to the doctor. While Jack is beginning to suspect the doctor isn’t who he claims to be, the townspeople witness the tonic restoring one man’s hearing and helping another walk without a crutch. Soon after, they are buying up the tonic in the hopes it will bring the rain to their drought-plagued fields. Friendships with Bear, a stray dog, and Cora, the adventurous niece of the mayor, give Jack much-needed support. Hope is offered in the parallel story of Silas Carey, whose life 50 years earlier was not unlike Jack’s in the present day. Atmospheric with decidedly ominous overtones, this historical novel offers just the right mix of good vs. evil. Main characters are presumed White; there is a Black family in town, described using the term colored. The author’s note adds historical context about 19th-century patent medicines as well as commentary on changing language norms around race.

A deliciously sinister read. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-984813-15-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022


An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021


The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often...

A successful juvenile by the beloved New Yorker writer portrays a farm episode with an imaginative twist that makes a poignant, humorous story of a pig, a spider and a little girl.

Young Fern Arable pleads for the life of runt piglet Wilbur and gets her father to sell him to a neighbor, Mr. Zuckerman. Daily, Fern visits the Zuckermans to sit and muse with Wilbur and with the clever pen spider Charlotte, who befriends him when he is lonely and downcast. At the news of Wilbur's forthcoming slaughter, campaigning Charlotte, to the astonishment of people for miles around, spins words in her web. "Some Pig" comes first. Then "Terrific"—then "Radiant". The last word, when Wilbur is about to win a show prize and Charlotte is about to die from building her egg sac, is "Humble". And as the wonderful Charlotte does die, the sadness is tempered by the promise of more spiders next spring.

The three way chats, in which they are joined by other animals, about web spinning, themselves, other humans—are as often informative as amusing, and the whole tenor of appealing wit and pathos will make fine entertainment for reading aloud, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1952

ISBN: 978-0-06-026385-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1952

Close Quickview