Fans of Dan Poblocki, John Bellairs, and R.L. Stine will all be right at home and smiling at the shivers (and the jokes).

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THE HAUNTED SERPENT

Ghosts and zombies and boa constrictors, oh my!

Spaulding Meriweather has moved around a lot with his great-aunt Gwendolyn. She used to home-school him between writing her bestselling mysteries, but now that they have moved to her girlhood hometown, Thedgeroot, he has started attending sixth grade at public school. Making friends is not his strong suit; he’s a little odd, just like his parents, who have a specious paranormal-investigations television show that keeps them too busy to care for him. Complicating matters, he is pretty sure he saw a zombie—er, revenant—in the woods outside of town, and someone is stealing bodies from the local cemetery. Then he meets the ghost next door, Mr. Radzinsky, who was eaten by his own boa constrictor. Spaulding contacts his parents, but he has cried spook before; they won’t come. He decides to go it alone and investigate the zombies and the not-so-abandoned Slecht-Tech factory nearby…well, not alone. There’s fourth-grade neighbor Lucy Bellwood and her older sister, Marietta, and another classmate, Kenny Lin—and Mr. Radzinsky seems keen to help as well. Author/illustrator Mitchell’s debut is spooky and sarcastic. Her occasional illustrations (purportedly culled from Spaulding’s notebook, complete with funny captions) are an added bonus. They depict Spaulding as white and Lucy and Marietta as black; Kenny is cued as Asian.

Fans of Dan Poblocki, John Bellairs, and R.L. Stine will all be right at home and smiling at the shivers (and the jokes). (Suspense. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2785-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

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 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A lighthearted mystery starring seriously smart kids.

THE AMBROSE DECEPTION

A mysterious scholarship contest launches this middle-grade mystery.

The action begins when three Chicago middle schoolers—Bondi Johnson, a black boy; Wilf Samson, a white boy; and Melissa Burris, a white girl—are selected to compete in the Kaplin/Baron scholarship contest. No one at the three students’ schools has heard of this scholarship, and even stranger, none of these students is known for exemplary academics. In fact, they are better known for scheming, daydreaming, and schmoozing. The scholarship rules appear straightforward: untangle the clues, provide a photo of each, and win $10,000. With these guidelines, a provided cellphone, a personal driver, and a no-strings-attached debit card, each student is ready to tackle the task. Bondi attacks his clues with diligence; Melissa, though suspicious, enjoys the chase; Wilf would rather cross items off his bucket list than solve the riddles. When the hunt for clues draws to an end, Bondi, Melissa, and Wilf discover there is another mystery surrounding this scholarship and the money, leading them to band together to unravel the remaining clues and unearth the truth before the $10,000 slips out of their hands. In the tradition of The Westing Game or Chasing Vermeer, this is a plot-driven brainteaser centered on Chicago landmarks and Chicago history. The twists and turns are well-paced and believable, and transcripts of texts, emails, and letters within the chapters add dimension to the strong cast of secondary characters.

A lighthearted mystery starring seriously smart kids. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4847-8838-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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