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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The second installment in this spirited series is a hit.

WAYS TO GROW LOVE

From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 2

A new baby coming means Ryan has lots of opportunities to grow love.

Ryan has so much to look forward to this summer—she is going to be a big sister, and she finally gets to go to church camp! But new adventures bring challenges, too. Ryan feels like the baby is taking forever to arrive, and with Mom on bed rest, she isn’t able to participate in the family’s typical summer activities. Ryan’s Dad is still working the late shift, which means he gets home and goes to bed when she and her older brother, Ray, are waking up, so their quality daddy-daughter time is limited to one day a week. When the time for camp finally arrives, Ryan is so worried about bugs, ghosts, and sharing a cabin that she wonders if she should go at all. Watson’s heroine is smart and courageous, bringing her optimistic attitude to any challenge she faces. Hard topics like family finances and complex relationships with friends are discussed in an age-appropriate way. Watson continues to excel at crafting a sense of place; she transports readers to Portland, Oregon, with an attention to detail that can only come from someone who has loved that city. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and occasional illustrations by Mata spotlight their joy and make this book shine.

The second installment in this spirited series is a hit. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0058-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Magical animals become a kooky, sweet metaphor for growing up.

CATALYST

She’s just the adorablest, teeniest of stray kittens—suddenly grown as big as a hippopotamus.

Zoe’s not supposed to bring stray animals home anymore, ever since the skunk incident. Who can resist the world’s smallest kitten, though? And it’s Zoe’s 12th birthday, and she’s been unhappy at how tall she’s grown, and she’s been crushed over her older brother’s impending departure for college; eventually, her concerned parents cave. But after Pipsqueak’s been with Zoe for just a couple of days, she’s suddenly a full-grown cat. Then she’s the size of a dog, then a lion, and after less than a week, a hippo. If the government finds out about the enormous talking feline (for Pipsqueak can speak, now, and read as well), will they take her away to Area 51? Zoe and her best friend, Harrison, begin a quest: They’ll take Pipsqueak to Zoe’s wacky New Age aunt, who’ll maybe have a solution for them. Along the way their fellowship swells with magical animals, an offbeat crew composed of a six-tailed green dog and a multicolored flying mouse. The far-fetched setup and ensuing adventure convey themes that will resonate with the audience; Pipsqueak’s as unhappy with her out-of-control body and circumstances as Zoe, and the quest may lead them to new comfort with themselves. Zoe is depicted as white on the cover, and Harrison is of South Asian descent.

Magical animals become a kooky, sweet metaphor for growing up. (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-06502-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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