BEN AND THE SUDDEN TOO-BIG FAMILY

When asked about his philosophy of life in school, ten-year-old Ben Mitchell posits that some things are all-right and some things are not-all-right. He and his dad Mitch are a two-man crew until Mitch meets Casey. Ben thinks Casey’s all right; he’s not too distressed when Mitch marries her. Ben is a little less certain things can remain in the all-right column when Mitch and Casey decide to go ahead with the adoption of a Chinese baby girl whom Casey had been planning to adopt as a single parent. Maudie Mingmei can cause problems, but she’s actually all-right enough. Then the family attends a week-long party for Casey’s parents, and the extended family is just too big. Ben feels lost until he finds a couple of kindred souls in Casey’s aunt Nora and his new cousin JJ. Rodowsky’s latest makes excellent bibliotherapy for boys with the blended-family blues. Ben’s appealing first-person narration sounds like the musings of a real kid, and his story has a refreshing lack of major trauma. Even readers who aren’t in his situation will identify. (Fiction 9-12)

Pub Date: April 11, 2007

ISBN: 0-374-30658-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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A richly atmospheric page-turner—readers will eagerly anticipate the forthcoming sequel.

THE CLOCKWORK CROW

From the Clockwork Crow series

Young Seren Rhys stands on the cusp of a new life. Unfortunately for her, the train to her new life is late.

Following the death of her aunt, who saved her from her 12-year stay at the orphanage, she receives word that her godfather, Capt. Arthur Jones, will take her in. Seren spends her wait dreaming of the Jones family and their surely bustling, welcoming manor, Plas-y-Fran in Wales. An encounter with a mysterious man and his more mysterious wrapped parcel (containing the eponymous mechanical bird) leaves Seren reeling, and the mysteries multiply when she arrives at Plas-y-Fran. The place is shuttered and cold, nearly deserted but for a few fearful, oppressively unforthcoming servants. The captain and his wife are away; of their young son, Tomos, there is neither sign nor sound. With the Crow as her only, if reluctant, ally, Seren soon finds herself enmeshed in mayhem and magic that may prove lethal. In her characteristic style, Fisher crafts an elaborate fantasy from deceptively simple language. Seren is a sharp, saucy narrator whose constant puzzlement at others’ consternation over her impertinence provides running amusement. Supporting characters are fascinating if ambiguous players, not so much poorly drawn as poorly revealed, perhaps casualties of the quick pace. The deadened manor, however, provides the perfect backdrop for preternatural forces. Characters are presumed white.

A richly atmospheric page-turner—readers will eagerly anticipate the forthcoming sequel. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1491-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A delicious confection and much more: it shows that the human heart is delicate, that it matters, and that it must be...

CIRCUS MIRANDUS

One strange afternoon, 10-year-old Micah Tuttle finds out that magic is real.

Micah always thought Grandpa Ephraim’s wild stories of the centuries-old Circus Mirandus were spun solely for his amusement. But when his dying grandfather writes a letter to the “Lightbender,” hoping to call in the miracle the magician had promised him as a boy, Micah learns the stories were true, and the appearance of Ms. Chintzy, the circus’ cantankerous parrot messenger, clinches the deal. Happily, Micah finds a loyal if somewhat challenging friend to help him track down the elusive light-bending magician: the magic-leery, science-minded Jenny Mendoza. Their budding rapport is nuanced and complex, a refreshing illustration of how absolute like-mindedness is not a prerequisite for friendship. On one level, the book is a fantastical circus romp, with fortunetelling vultures and “a wallaby that could burp the Greek alphabet.” On another, it’s both serious and thick with longing: Micah’s ache for the companionship of his once-vital guardian-grandfather; Grandpa Ephraim’s boyhood yearning for his absent father, as fleshed out in flashbacks; the circus founders’ desire to keep enchantment alive in a world where “faith is such a fragile thing.”

A delicious confection and much more: it shows that the human heart is delicate, that it matters, and that it must be handled with care. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-525-42843-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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