ANNIE LUMSDEN, THE GIRL FROM THE SEA

Rather like the seashell her mother picks up that is “as ordinary as any seashell, as beautiful as any seashell,” the precious mystery that is Annie Lumsden is not apparent to all.

Thirteen-year-old Annie lives with her mum in a small house beside the sea in a beautiful location in the northeast of England. Classmates ridiculed her difficulties at school, and now she suffers inexplicable seizures. Annie and her single mother, who sings sea shanties in the pub and sells handcrafted art made of shells and rocks, glory in the spinning of tales and in connections between their beloved home and far-flung times and places. One day, Annie asks Mum to explain how she came to be; the ensuing tale weaves together the mysteries of the watery world that Annie, whose hair “drifts like seaweed” when she swims and whose “thoughts dart and dance inside like little minnows in the shallows,” loves so dearly. It involves a mysterious man from a seaweed forest, rather like a selkie, who had “skin smooth and bright like sealskin,” spoke with a “liquid voice,” and is her true father. This short, captivating story is enhanced with watercolor-and–colored-pencil illustrations in natural tones; the illustrations’ impressionistic style perfectly mirrors the text’s blurring of the lines between the magical and the everyday. This gentle tale reminds readers of the power of stories to remake our humdrum worlds into something wondrous. Main characters present White.

Enchanting. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1674-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

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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