PURE DEAD TROUBLE

A powerful demon, a psychopath turned Eco-Warrior and, almost worst of all, a seemingly archetypal pair of American tourists join the cast for this fourth outing with the tumultuous Strega-Borgia clan. Returning from Italy to find their butler Latch in an amnesiac daze, the Strega-Borgias hire a temp named Zander, who seems to be a New Age hippie but is really a murderous explosives expert out to shut down gruesome genetic experiments being clandestinely conducted at nearby SapienTech. There’s worse trouble afoot, though, as Isagoth, Head of Hell’s own Defense Ministry, is zeroing in on the Chronostone, a uniquely dangerous magical token that his boss, S’tan, really, really wants. Some of the set pieces take a bit too long to play out and the actual fate of hyper-competent nanny and retired witch Mrs. McLachlan remains obscure after she takes on the demon. But Gliori stirs in such a delicious assortment of crises domestic and supernatural, of magical creatures both comic and frightening (sometimes in turn), of slapstick, preposterous twists, hair-raising brushes with death, close encounters with gooey slime of several varieties, massive messes and explosions—all ramping up to a violent, helter-skelter climax—that it’s all still pure, dead entertaining. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2005

ISBN: 0-375-83311-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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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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KEVIN AND HIS DAD

There is something profoundly elemental going on in Smalls’s book: the capturing of a moment of unmediated joy. It’s not melodramatic, but just a Saturday in which an African-American father and son immerse themselves in each other’s company when the woman of the house is away. Putting first things first, they tidy up the house, with an unheralded sense of purpose motivating their actions: “Then we clean, clean, clean the windows,/wipe, wipe, wash them right./My dad shines in the windows’ light.” When their work is done, they head for the park for some batting practice, then to the movies where the boy gets to choose between films. After a snack, they work their way homeward, racing each other, doing a dance step or two, then “Dad takes my hand and slows down./I understand, and we slow down./It’s a long, long walk./We have a quiet talk and smile.” Smalls treats the material without pretense, leaving it guileless and thus accessible to readers. Hays’s artwork is wistful and idyllic, just as this day is for one small boy. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-79899-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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