THE GHOST ROAD

Set in 1978 in Newfoundland, Canada, this middle-grade novel weaves together a family history and a curse. 

Twelve-year-old Ruth grew up in Toronto when she wasn’t traveling with her botanist father, but she is spending this summer in Newfoundland with her aunt Doll—a relative she doesn’t know—while her father and new stepmother travel. Sleeping uneasily on her first night, Ruth awakens to see a girl holding a candle get into the bed opposite her own. She assumes it is Ruby, her cousin whom she has never met, who will also be staying at Aunt Doll’s for the summer. But in the morning, the girl is gone, and Doll tells her that Ruby is coming later that day. This is the intriguing beginning of an engrossing tale at whose core is a feud between two families, the Barretts and the Finns, who sailed to Newfoundland from Ireland in 1832—and a curse that affects the female blonde, blue-eyed twins of each generation of Finns. When Ruth and Ruby meet, they are struck by their identical physical features, including blonde hair and blue eyes, and when Ruth begins having strange visions, the girls delve deeper into a generations-old secret. Cotter’s complex and engrossing story is enhanced by its superbly presented isolated Newfoundland setting and a satisfying dose of ghosts. The theme—the power of words—creates both a fascinating conclusion and food for thought. The book assumes a white default.

Delicious. (Supernatural adventure. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-91889-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Pratchett-like worldbuilding centers immigrant kids in a story filled with culture, humor, and heart.

THE YEAR I FLEW AWAY

At home in Haiti, 10-year-old Gabrielle Marie Jean loves the rain, scary stories, beating the boys in mango-eating contests, and her family, most of all.

When her parents’ paperwork issues mean she must immigrate to the United States alone, every heavenly thing she believes about America can’t outweigh the sense of dread she feels in leaving everything she knows behind. A preternaturally sensitive child, Gabrielle feels responsible for not only her own success, but her whole family’s, so the stakes of moving in with her uncle, aunt, and cousins in Brooklyn are high—even before Lady Lydia, a witch, tries to steal her essence. Lydia makes her an offer she can’t refuse: achieving assimilation. Arnold skillfully fuses distinct immigrant experiences with the supernatural to express a universally felt desire for belonging. Gabrielle desperately wants to fit in despite the xenophobia she experiences every day and despite making new, accepting friends in Mexican American Carmen and Rocky the talking rat-rabbit. But in trying to change herself, Gabrielle risks giving Lydia the power to conquer Brooklyn. Gabrielle is a charming narrator, and of course, good guy (girl) magic wins out in the end, but the threat to immigrant lives and identities is presented poignantly nonetheless in this richly imaginative origin story of one Haitian American girl that offers a fantastical take on immigrant narratives.

Pratchett-like worldbuilding centers immigrant kids in a story filled with culture, humor, and heart. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-27275-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A coming-of-age tale that is both comforting and wonderfully peculiar.

SÉANCE TEA PARTY

As a girl struggles to navigate adolescence, she finds support from an unlikely source.

In this graphic novel, 12-year-old Lora Xi finds herself increasingly isolated. While her best friend and her classmates seem obsessed with parties, boys, and texting, her interests have remained fixed on witches, ghosts, and nostalgic activities of childhood. While throwing herself a séance tea party in the attic, she discovers a ghost, a girl about her age, named Alexa. The two become fast friends, with Alexa gently prodding Lora to reach out to peers and slowly engage in more social events. The energetic, flowing graphics embellished with colorful details reveal complex narratives for both characters. With the help of some old friends, Alexa eventually discovers more about her long-forgotten past, having lived in the same town 50 years prior. Lora finds the courage to participate in more social events while staying authentic. But the two friends gradually find their goals diverging, which leads to an emotional climax. While this is Yee’s middle-grade debut, she is a veteran of comic books, and it shows. She artfully balances complex character arcs and suspense while bringing a touch of fantasy and wonder without overcrowding the plot. Lora is of Chinese descent, and Alexa is White; Lora’s middle-class North American community is vibrantly diverse.

A coming-of-age tale that is both comforting and wonderfully peculiar. (author's note) (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12532-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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