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.


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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Convincing, humorous, warm, and definitely spooky.


Henry, the new boy in Barbara Anne Klein’s Seattle fifth-grade class, dresses oddly, but that isn’t the strangest thing about him.

Henry and narrator Barbara Anne (or Bitsy as her parents and grandmother call her) bond over their need to escape their assigned lunch table, and Barbara Anne soon discovers the subject of Henry’s absorbed sketching at recess: the boy who seems to be haunting him. Irrepressible, strong-minded Barbara Anne is not always aware of her limitations, and Siebel’s voice for her is both funny and warm. Henry battles a respiratory infection throughout much of the story even as he and Barbara Anne begin to realize that young Edgar, Henry’s ghost, did not survive the Spanish influenza pandemic in 1918. A session with a Ouija board and a letter and yearbook discovered in Henry’s attic tell part of the story. Edgar’s father’s journal, found in the public library archives, reveals the rest. Siebel cleverly weaves together the story of the developing friendships among Barbara Anne and her classmates and the story of Edgar’s friendship with Henry’s neighbor, Edgar’s playmate as a small child and now a very old woman. Henry, Barbara Anne, and Edgar present white; classmate Renee Garcia, who looks forward to eventually celebrating her quinceañera, and Barbara Anne’s teacher, Miss Biniam (“she looks like an Ethiopian princess”) are the only main characters of color.

Convincing, humorous, warm, and definitely spooky. (Ghost story. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-93277-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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