Tess, 12, finds emotional comfort in a stray cat she befriends after running away from her efficient, sensible father and stepmother to live with her slapdash, irresponsible mother. When Tess first meets her “enemies,” her soon-to-be stepmother and stepsiblings, she tells herself that these “are the aliens who have captured my father, and I shall not like them.” And Tess, a poor student who is messy and feels trapped by her tidy stepmother’s multitude of rules, dislikes living with them. But the final straw comes when Annie, Tess’s three-year-old stepsister, destroys an extra-credit social-studies assignment Tess has been diligently working on. Fed up and furious, Tess runs away, hoofing it to her mother’s home, which requires camping overnight at a state park. At the campgrounds, a stray cat unexpectedly adopts her, and follows her all the way to her mother’s small, cramped condo. Tess, who has been feeling lonely and unloved, develops a powerful connection to her feline friend, but her mother hates cats and her dad is allergic. How Tess solves these various difficulties is the meat of the story, but it’s a surprisingly bland dish. Tess’s mother is so indifferent to Tess’s needs that she borders on negligent, the result being that Tess’s rather flavorless self-sacrificing father and well-organized stepmother look good in contrast. This, in turn, causes the narrative to feel lopsided, making Tess’s final decision seem almost preordained. Nonetheless, readers, especially children of divorce, should relate to Tess and find her a sympathetic protagonist. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 22, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-09644-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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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. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Still, its revelations make a fine yarn. (Fiction. 10- 14)


During the six days it takes Sal's paternal grandparents to drive her west to Idaho in time for her mother's birthday, she tells them about her friend Phoebe—a story that, the 13-year-old comes to realize, in many ways parallels her own: Each girl had a mother who left home without warning.

The mystery of Phoebe's more conventional mother's disappearance and its effects on her family and eventual explanation unfold as the journey, with its own offbeat incidents, proceeds; meanwhile, in Sal's intricate narrative, the tragic events surrounding her mother's flight are also gradually revealed. After Sal fell from a tree, her mother carried her back to the house; soon after, she bore a stillborn child. Slowly, the love between Sal's parents, her mother's inconsolable grief, and Sal's life since her departure emerge; last to surface are the painful facts that Sal has been most reluctant to face. Creech, an American who has published novels in Britain, fashions characters with humor and sensitivity, but Sal's poignant story would have been stronger without quite so many remarkable coincidences or such a tidy sum of epiphanies at the end.

Still, its revelations make a fine yarn. (Fiction. 10- 14)

Pub Date: June 30, 1994

ISBN: 978-0-06-023334-1

Page Count: 280

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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