Ultimately a feel-good story, though readers will wade through tides of bad, angry, heartbroken and horror-struck feelings...


Already saddled with a major father issue, young Olivia Stellatella acquires ghost problems too after she’s forced to live in the backstage rooms of a decrepit concert hall. Contemptuously referring to her father—loser of wife, house and, as conductor of an orchestra on the skids, probably job—throughout as “the Maestro,” Olivia sets new standards for unlikability as she nurses feelings of abandonment in the wake of her mother’s abrupt disappearance. Notwithstanding concerted efforts to alienate everyone, though, she acquires several friends who prove sturdy allies when needed. Not only does the town mayor deliver an ultimatum to increase ticket sales 1,000 percent or face dissolution, but the concert hall proves to be haunted by both a quartet of friendly ghosts and a number of mindlessly malicious shades. Olivia resolves to lay the ghosts to rest even though that requires allowing them to inhabit a living mind to re-experience their deaths. As in The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls (2012), Legrand shows twin knacks for creating creepy supernatural elements and thoroughly scary experiences for her central characters. Though here she forces an overly tidy resolution, she also cleverly integrates the storylines to leave the ghosts, the orchestra’s future, and her rude, surly but also admirably courageous protagonist in happier places.

Ultimately a feel-good story, though readers will wade through tides of bad, angry, heartbroken and horror-struck feelings to get there. (Horror/fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4294-8

Page Count: 418

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2013


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


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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