A funny, adventurous tale of a girl who turns small-town sleuth.


In Wieland’s middle-grade series launch, the teenage daughter and granddaughter of police officers gets the investigation bug herself after a rash of bank robberies.

Kat Dylan isn’t your typical teenager. Sure, she has boy problems and school problems and sometimes wishes her little brother, Alec, weren’t around. But she’s also smart as heck, an amateur investigator who has police work in her genes—her father is a detective in Los Angeles, and her grandfather is chief of police in Crabtree, Michigan. Her parents are divorced, and when her mother is deployed to Afghanistan, Kat and her brother reluctantly move to Crabtree until their father can figure out something about after-school care. Crabtree isn’t the slow, lazy town it seems to be, 13-year-old Kat and 10-year-old Alec soon find. They get caught in the middle of a bank robbery that lands their grandfather behind bars. Wieland has created quite the lively hero in Kat—a teenager with a crackling sense of humor who’s not afraid of a fight and has a talent for investigation. She, Alec, and their friend Tommy go after the robbers, dubbed “The Monster Gang” because of the Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, and Mummy masks they wear. Wieland weaves a tale full of adventure and humor, though the resolution is a bit far-fetched. Kat is a somewhat layered heroine. Yes, she’s funny and adventuresome, but she also can be sad, longing for the friends and family she left behind in LA. Adding to her authenticity is her ambivalence toward Tommy, who could be a love interest. There are a few moments where Kat sounds wiser than she should be at her age, as when she tells someone they need to “workshop” their jokes. For the most part, though, it’s fun to be on an adventure with this modern-day Nancy Drew.

A funny, adventurous tale of a girl who turns small-town sleuth.

Pub Date: May 12, 2022

ISBN: 979-8-9857013-0-2

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Smart Aleck Press

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.


An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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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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