THE CURSED COIN

FRIGHTVISION

This gleefully macabre tale hints at a series with great potential.

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This middle-grade thriller finds a brother and sister tangling with an impossibly powerful coin and a gruesome stalker.

Twelve-year-old RJ walks with his younger sister one summer evening. Shelly, who’s 10, is much braver than her brother. She stops to examine something in front of a decrepit, “castle-like house” at the end of their cul-de-sac. Behind the house is a wooded cliff and a lake, in which their father, a fisherman, recently disappeared. Shelly, a collector of weird things, picks up a coin and pockets it. As they walk, she suddenly screams in pain: “The coin—my leg!” RJ then hears a strange voice whisper, “Throw it in the lake.” After he throws the coin as far onto the property as possible, Shelly reveals she was kidding. They walk home, and RJ sees what look like red eyes near the castle. Later, RJ notices a scraggly man with a sharp cane, first at the grocery store, then at his and Shelly’s lemonade stand. This is the Impaler, whose presence terrifies RJ while Mom attends an award ceremony with Ed, her scientist boyfriend. Worse, the coin reappears, this time causing bizarre sores and strange evil urges in the normally timid RJ. Now he’s determined to banish the coin to the lake. Crantz begins a series, in the vein of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, with this chilling blend of mystery and SF. Readers have plenty to juggle early on, primarily the true fate of the siblings’ father. The kids’ exploration of the horrid house kicks off the narrative’s second half. A few characters aren’t who they seem to be, and younger audiences will learn not to judge people by their appearances. The author effectively offers indelible images, like the Impaler, who’s “mangy and dirty like a coyote, but moved like a squid lost on land.” While the danger of the coin is entertaining, Crantz lays impressive groundwork for the series by introducing “Project: FrightVision,” which mentions other cursed objects and explains the whereabouts of Wally Swanson, a missing neighborhood child. Also noteworthy is RJ’s love of video games, which he can’t play while having his own adventures.

This gleefully macabre tale hints at a series with great potential.

Pub Date: April 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-09-253849-7

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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  • New York Times Bestseller

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

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  • New York Times Bestseller

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

THE WORLD-FAMOUS NINE

A whodunit that doesn’t live up to its intriguing premise.

Coded clues put two young sleuths on the trail of a magic mandala hidden somewhere in a huge, bustling department store.

Hardly has meek young Zander Olinga arrived for a visit with Zina Winebee, his grandmother and owner-manager of the Number Nine Plaza, than he learns of a threat to the continued existence of the renowned emporium. The danger is linked to Darkbloom, a rumored evil spirit set on reversing the good-fortune charm left by Nepali monks at the store’s founding. The stone tablet bearing the magical mandala vanished 90 years ago, and finding its hiding place becomes a race pitting Zander and intrepid new ally Natasha Novikov against unknown saboteurs whose minds have been taken over by Darkbloom. The keys to the tablet’s location are a series of ingenious word and number clues left by Zander’s great-granduncle Vladimir, and Guterson provides enough hints along the way for savvy readers to decode them. What he doesn’t do is give either his leads or the many-faceted store (which, over the course of the story, is explored from the Ferris wheel on its roof to the bakery in the cellar) any more depth or distinctive traits than he gives Nepali religious practice. Darkbloom remains a shadowy bugaboo, its actual nature and motivations unexplained and its fate left anticlimactically unresolved. Zander’s father is from Cameroon, and his mother reads white; names cue some diversity in the supporting cast. Final art not seen. (This review has been updated for factual accuracy.)

A whodunit that doesn’t live up to its intriguing premise. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2024

ISBN: 9780316484442

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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