Despite these shortcomings, however, this debut is an inventive story with a fresh setting and an upstanding moral compass.

SPIRIT'S KEY

This middle-grade ghostly mystery delivers a timely message.

Life on tiny Bald Island is fragile—but for 12-year-old Spirit Holden, who moved there with her father six years earlier, it is home. To the islanders, the Holdens will always be “dingbatters”—outsiders—but their superstitious natures appreciate Spirit’s father’s gift of second sight, since they believe it protects them from the harsh natural elements as well as the baldies—the island’s feral dogs. Even Spirit’s pet baldie, Sky, cannot sway the islanders’ belief that the dogs are evil. Cohn reflects on insular attitudes in an isolated region as she spins a story about fear of the unknown. When baldies begin turning up dead (including Spirit’s beloved Sky) and people fall sick, islanders begin blaming the Holdens. With the help of Sky, who returns as a sort of canis ex machina ghost, Spirit uncovers the secret to the baldies’ deaths, discovers her own power and convinces the islanders that superstition and narrow thinking are the real dangers. The story’s worthy theme of tolerance would be more effective if it were not trotted out quite so regularly, and the pacing often drags when action seems most dictated—a casualty of the same tendency to overexplain. 

Despite these shortcomings, however, this debut is an inventive story with a fresh setting and an upstanding moral compass. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-30011-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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A thrilling, mystery-laden story with an incredible setting.

BEAR BOTTOM

From the FunJungle series , Vol. 7

Leaving FunJungle Adventure Park for a vacation on a ranch in West Yellowstone, 13-year-old Teddy and his girlfriend, Summer, find themselves searching for missing bison while in the middle of solving a jewel heist.

The latest book in Gibbs’ FunJungle series leaves the adventure park for new territory. Even so, Teddy can’t seem to escape mysteries. While staying at the Oy Vey Corral, his skills as a teen detective are enlisted by the ranch owners to help find out who is stealing their purebred bison. When a grizzly bear named Sasquatch breaks into the ranch house late one night and Summer’s mother’s dazzling multimillion-dollar necklace goes missing, Teddy finds himself working not just one whodunit, but two. From an old hidden room for hiding bootleggers’ stashes to an abandoned gold mine and a bull on the loose, Gibbs keeps the pace moving and the action coming. While most of the main characters are presumed White, there is diversity in secondary characters. The owners of the Oy Vey Corral are Jewish. Gibbs doesn’t shy away from discussing America’s brutal treatment of Native peoples or the ways Americans have destroyed animal populations and habitats. This action-packed mystery with a satisfying resolution doesn’t rest on predictable thieves or obvious answers.

A thrilling, mystery-laden story with an incredible setting. (author’s note) (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7946-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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