Likely to see sequels; Howard and Ivy deserve them.

HOWARD WALLACE, P.I.

Grantleyville Middle School lowlifes beware: shamus Howard Wallace is on the case!

Twelve-year-old Howard Wallace is obsessed with Sam Spade and other hard-boiled detectives, and he runs his own detective agency (brown bathrobe standing in for the trench coat) from his home and school offices. He solves cases and hands out bills, using his proceeds to buy stashes of his favorite gum and care for his beloved, ancient bike, Big Blue. When a new case involving a stolen student-council checkbook lands in his lap, Howard reluctantly takes on a junior partner, new girl Ivy Mason. (The two characters are likely white.) Almost immediately, the duo starts getting anonymous threats telling them to drop the case. Who’s behind the theft and threats? The rich, connected student-council president? Her BFF, who lost the election for treasurer to Howard’s client? The disgruntled faculty adviser? Or someone even more unexpected? Canadian author Lyall’s debut is a middle school mystery that offers a few laughs, believable characters, and enough realistic kid detecting to keep young PIs turning pages. Through Howard’s references to noir detective greats, readers in the target audience who have no reference points for such will begin to learn the tropes of the genre. Once it gets going, the mystery is engaging enough to carry them past bumps.

Likely to see sequels; Howard and Ivy deserve them. (Mystery. 8-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4549-1949-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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