SOMEONE WAS WATCHING

The sadness pervading the first few pages of this decently written first novel is almost overwhelming: Chris and his parents return to the summer home where his toddler sister Molly apparently drowned three months earlier; the family is just beginning to come to grips with their loss. Viewing a videotape made that terrible day, Chris interprets it with poignant optimism—maybe Molly was kidnapped, maybe she's alive, maybe he can find her. With longtime best friend Pat (and without the knowledge of his parents, who are suitably skeptical about the scenario he envisions), Chris travels to Florida and locates the elderly couple who have convinced Molly that she belongs to them. So much of this mild adventure works that it seems almost curmudgeonly to point out its faults: the boyish eighth graders encounter no real difficulties in their journey; the kidnappers' motives, arrest, and punishment are barely hinted at; there's an unsettling shift to Molly's point of view that all but confirms the outcome, diffusing any lingering suspense. But holding everything together are the characters' feelings; their grief and reactions to various dilemmas are so pure and credible that readers will willingly put doubts aside to join in the search. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-8075-7531-3

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1993

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AKATA WITCH

Who can't love a story about a Nigerian-American 12-year-old with albinism who discovers latent magical abilities and saves the world? Sunny lives in Nigeria after spending the first nine years of her life in New York. She can't play soccer with the boys because, as she says, "being albino made the sun my enemy," and she has only enemies at school. When a boy in her class, Orlu, rescues her from a beating, Sunny is drawn in to a magical world she's never known existed. Sunny, it seems, is a Leopard person, one of the magical folk who live in a world mostly populated by ignorant Lambs. Now she spends the day in mundane Lamb school and sneaks out at night to learn magic with her cadre of Leopard friends: a handsome American bad boy, an arrogant girl who is Orlu’s childhood friend and Orlu himself. Though Sunny's initiative is thin—she is pushed into most of her choices by her friends and by Leopard adults—the worldbuilding for Leopard society is stellar, packed with details that will enthrall readers bored with the same old magical worlds. Meanwhile, those looking for a touch of the familiar will find it in Sunny's biggest victories, which are entirely non-magical (the detailed dynamism of Sunny's soccer match is more thrilling than her magical world saving). Ebulliently original. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-01196-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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GHOST CANOE

Hobbs (Beardream, p. 462, etc.), setting his novel on Washington's Cape Flattery in 1874, presents a hero who not only has the intelligence to solve a murder, but the resources to help bring a killer to justice. Nathan MacAllister, 14, has a fairly exciting life as a de facto assistant lighthouse keeper to his father, retired Captain Zachary MacAllister. When not tending the lighthouse, Nathan looks after his sick mother and fishes with a friend, Lighthouse George, a Makah fisherman. When a sailing ship, the L.S. Burnaby, crashes on the rocks near the lighthouse, and the captain's murdered body washes ashore, Nathan becomes an amateur sleuth. At first, he believes (as the Makah do) that an evil spirit is at work, but certain events—his neighbor, Captain Bim, burying a treasure box at night, the discovery of a skeleton in a Makah canoe hanging in the treetops, the appearance of a charismatic yet strange new shopkeeper, Mr. Kane—lead Nathan to sensibly conclude that the mystery has more to do with real people than ghosts. While the mystery is compelling, it is Hobbs's deft weaving of Makah culture into the story that resonates, from their harvesting of wood without cutting any trees to their generosity to friends. A robust adventure in an intriguing setting. (map) (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-688-14193-5

Page Count: 195

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1997

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