Middle-grade storytelling at its very best—extraordinary.

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THE SWALLOW

A GHOST STORY

Spooky tension, friendship and compassion permeate this exquisitely plotted middle-grade ghost story.

Polly wants to see ghosts, and Rose can’t stop seeing them. When the two 12-year-olds first meet, hearing each other through the adjoining wall in the attics of their adjacent row houses, Polly is convinced Rose is a ghost—until they meet in person, and even then she’s not sure. Rose certainly looks ghostly, with her pale face, shadowed eyes, and dark, wild hair, and Polly’s twin brothers, Matthew and Mark, are concerned enough to warn Polly away from Rose, afraid she will steal Polly’s soul. But the girls continue their secret friendship, trying to uncover the mystery of Rose’s aunt Winnifred, who, they discover, died at 13 and who, they think, is haunting Rose’s attic. As related in first-person narration that switches from Polly to Rose and back again, even within chapters, the story structure weaves its way in and out—riveting and tumbling with tension but never obvious, leaving readers wondering if anything is really as it seems. The protagonists are both spooky and delightfully down-to-earth, and readers will seesaw between chills and snorts of laughter. When Cotter delivers the final twist, it is a denouement that becomes a springboard for greater revelations that lead to even greater reader satisfaction.

Middle-grade storytelling at its very best—extraordinary. (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-77049-591-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

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The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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