A fast-paced read featuring a smart, young protagonist.




In McClean’s debut middle-grade novel, a 12-year-old Caribbean boy must save the day when he discovers danger lurking in the forest in the first installment of the Secrets of Oscuros series.

Jason “JV” Valentine lives on the Caribbean island of Alcavere with his grandmother, Granny B, the town’s herbal healer. JV has always had a longing for travel and adventure and decides that during his vacation, he’ll explore Oscuros, the mystical, forbidden forest on the outskirts of town. Despite the mystery and superstition surrounding Oscuros, JV is unafraid. He’s frequently accompanied Granny B on trips there to pluck herbs and flowers and “often…felt a strange pull from the forest—as if an unseen force wanted to usher him deeper in, away from his grandmother, his home, and his village.” But when Adelle De Couteau, a neighborhood girl, goes missing in Oscuros, tensions run high, and JV’s friends urge him not to return there. Then the boy overhears a neighbor say that Granny B found the abandoned, infant JV in Oscuros long ago. He’s shocked, as it reveals that everything that his grandmother had ever told him about his traveling, adventurer parents was a lie (including their handwritten letters, likely written by Granny B herself). But as JV wanders deeper into the forest, he stumbles upon a dangerous operation and receives assistance from an unlikely supernatural ally. Overall, JV’s side story about discovering his true parentage could have been fleshed out a little more. That said, he remains a consistently strong character throughout this tale and one whom readers will root for. McClean effectively infuses Caribbean elements into the text, including specific elements of Trinidadian folklore and culture. For example, JV’s aforementioned encounter with Papa Bois, the titular protector of the forest, is an integral part of the plot. Additionally, the text is peppered with local words and phrases (such as “Bless my eyesight,” meaning “I can’t believe my eyes”), which helps to create an authentic setting. McClean also provides a helpful glossary of terms at the end of the book.

A fast-paced read featuring a smart, young protagonist.

Pub Date: May 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9978900-7-5

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Caribbean Reads Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Playful, engaging, and full of opportunities for empathy—a raucous storytime hit.


From the There’s a…in Your Book series

Readers try to dislodge a monster from the pages of this emotive and interactive read-aloud.

“OH NO!” the story starts. “There’s a monster in your book!” The blue, round-headed monster with pink horns and a pink-tipped tail can be seen cheerfully munching on the opening page. “Let’s try to get him out,” declares the narrator. Readers are encouraged to shake, tilt, and spin the book around, while the monster careens around an empty background looking scared and lost. Viewers are exhorted to tickle the monster’s feet, blow on the page, and make a really loud noise. Finally, shockingly, it works: “Now he’s in your room!” But clearly a monster in your book is safer than a monster in your room, so he’s coaxed back into the illustrations and lulled to sleep, curled up under one page and cuddling a bit of another like a child with their blankie. The monster’s entirely cute appearance and clear emotional reactions to his treatment add to the interactive aspect, and some young readers might even resist the instructions to avoid hurting their new pal. Children will be brought along on the monster’s journey, going from excited, noisy, and wiggly to calm and steady (one can hope).

Playful, engaging, and full of opportunities for empathy—a raucous storytime hit. (Picture book. 2-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6456-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Unhei has just left her Korean homeland and come to America with her parents. As she rides the school bus toward her first day of school, she remembers the farewell at the airport in Korea and examines the treasured gift her grandmother gave her: a small red pouch containing a wooden block on which Unhei’s name is carved. Unhei is ashamed when the children on the bus find her name difficult to pronounce and ridicule it. Lesson learned, she declines to tell her name to anyone else and instead offers, “Um, I haven’t picked one yet. But I’ll let you know next week.” Her classmates write suggested names on slips of paper and place them in a jar. One student, Joey, takes a particular liking to Unhei and sees the beauty in her special stamp. When the day arrives for Unhei to announce her chosen name, she discovers how much Joey has helped. Choi (Earthquake, see below, etc.) draws from her own experience, interweaving several issues into this touching account and delicately addressing the challenges of assimilation. The paintings are done in creamy, earth-tone oils and augment the story nicely. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80613-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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