THE VALLEY OF SECRETS

Hussey stretches a short story’s worth of ineptly developed plot over tedious rambles about the Cornish countryside, un-compelling mysteries revealed with agonizing slowness, prolonged flashbacks in the form of passages from an old diary, and whiny rants against faceless rain-forest despoilers. Informed that he’s inherited a large country estate, Stephen, abandoned as a baby, arrives in Cornwall to find the gates unlocked, the house open—but not a soul to be found. With breaks to pore over an ancestor’s wordy account of an early 20th-century trip up the Amazon, Stephen roams the grounds, discovering dozens of native and exotic plants. At length, he comes upon the estate’s inhabitants: a very old Amazonian Indian named Murra-yari and a herd of “Bugwomps,” limbless, caterpillar-like creatures with the eyes and personalities of primates. Money problems threaten an end to the ensuing idyll—but Murra-yari suddenly produces a pre-Columbian gold figurine to sell off, then dies, making way for Beth, an attractive replacement companion. Crump contributes small, atmospheric chapter-head scenes, which don’t help to plug the holes in this leaky, agenda-driven tale. (lists of species, multimedia resources) (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-689-87862-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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KEVIN AND HIS DAD

There is something profoundly elemental going on in Smalls’s book: the capturing of a moment of unmediated joy. It’s not melodramatic, but just a Saturday in which an African-American father and son immerse themselves in each other’s company when the woman of the house is away. Putting first things first, they tidy up the house, with an unheralded sense of purpose motivating their actions: “Then we clean, clean, clean the windows,/wipe, wipe, wash them right./My dad shines in the windows’ light.” When their work is done, they head for the park for some batting practice, then to the movies where the boy gets to choose between films. After a snack, they work their way homeward, racing each other, doing a dance step or two, then “Dad takes my hand and slows down./I understand, and we slow down./It’s a long, long walk./We have a quiet talk and smile.” Smalls treats the material without pretense, leaving it guileless and thus accessible to readers. Hays’s artwork is wistful and idyllic, just as this day is for one small boy. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-79899-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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