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The versatile author of Gypsy Davey (1994) and the Blue Eyed Son trilogy weaves a subtle, challenging study of star-crossed friendship. Richard Riley Moncrief likes his life, but loves baseball, both for the joy of hitting a ball a mile, and the delicious anticipation that this season, 1975, will belong to the Red Sox, with their new rookies Fred Lynn and Jim Rice, the Gold Dust Twins. Into his complacent world walks cultured, quiet Napoleon Charlie Ellis, newly arrived from Dominica with his college-professor father. Sure that his baseball dreams are big enough for two and bright enough to wash out color differences, Richard rides roughshod over Napoleon’s stiff manners and professed preference for cricket. He teaches him the rudiments of hitting and pitching (at which he shows marked aptitude), and urges him to make the effort to get along, to fit in, to ignore the racist remarks of their school’s newly bused-in students. Napoleon, though, is not a compromiser. Through Richard’s uncomprehending eyes, readers will see Napoleon’s pride and anger clearly, his feelings of dislocation, and his sharp awareness of racial tensions. In the end, the fragile trust that grows between these two seventh graders is shattered when Richard drills Napoleon with two pitches in a row, an accident, Richard swears, but enough of a betrayal to drive Napoleon into accepting a scholarship to another school. Reminiscent of Jerry Spinelli’s Crash (1996) for the gulf of misunderstanding—wide, but not too wide for readers, at least, to peer across—between the main characters, this offers no glib insights or easy resolution. But maybe, just maybe, Richard is a bit more aware at the end that others have dreams, too. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-028174-X

Page Count: 208

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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

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. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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