THE DRAGON IN THE GHETTO CAPER

An eleven-year-old aspiring detective seeking a sidekick who will "yes, boss" him takes up with a lonely young housewife in his upper-income suburb, and even if you can credit a kid like Andy being so interested in Edie Yakots' self-preoccupied prattle and her frequent references to "Harry—that's my husband" that he visits her daily after school, you still might question how many others his age will want to read about her. On looking back, the weakest link in The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was Mrs. F. herself; here, unfortunately, the "crazy lady" is central and what's worse she is 29 and less eccentric than "spacy flaky"—making The Dragon annoyingly trendy whereas The Mixed-Up Files in 1967 was refreshingly contemporary in its depiction of suburban kids. In truth, Edie really craves acceptance from the local garden clubbers; and aside from her habit of talking as if she'd been "born without conjunctions," her chief quirks are a fondness for dragons (Andy draws nothing else) and a desire to confront them that sets her to driving a numbers racket bag woman on her Thursday rounds through the ghetto. It is on these weekly jaunts that Andy, who believes Sister Henderson is collecting for her church (though readers catch on way ahead of him), gets what he thinks is his chance to apprehend some crooks. Crushingly, it's Edie's fast thinking that rescues him from their ambush, and later, attempting to return the favor, Andy makes an even bigger fool of himself when the robbers turn out to be police detectives. In a eureka ending typical of juvenile novels Andy realizes what Edie had been trying to teach him about dragons—but as if that didn't put her far enough ahead she announces on the last page that she's pregnant. Presumably, now she won't have to spend her energies flirting with ghetto dragons—though Konigsburg seems unaware to the end that Edie's caper (it used to be called slumming) is as distasteful as her all-round aid to Andy is deflating.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 1974

ISBN: 0689823282

Page Count: 132

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1974

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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It’s fine, but it doesn’t live up to its potential as a STEM-plus-caper adventure.

CITY SPIES

From the City Spies series , Vol. 1

This thriller reads like Miss Congeniality meets Kingsman, starring Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and Anishinaabe-kwe water protector Autumn Peltier…kind of.

Puerto Rican–born, Brooklyn-raised Sara isn’t expecting much from her court-appointed lawyer—she has no reason to put faith in the system that put her in jail after she hacked into the city’s computers to expose her foster parents as abusive frauds. But with juvie her only other prospect, Sara takes a leap and agrees to a wild proposition: She’ll join Britain’s MI6 as a kid operative. When she arrives at the covert facility in Scotland, she meets the other kids the MI6 agent, a white Englishman affectionately called Mother, has taken in—all of them, like Sara, have highly developed skills in logic, puzzles, sneakiness, and other useful spy tactics. Mother has a mission for them; he’s taking them to Paris to a competition for youth environmental innovation, where their job is to perform just well enough to make it into the top 10 so they can protect the eccentric billionaire sponsor of the contest from an imminent threat. It’s a fun romp with timely but superficial things to say about environmental activism, though the recruitment process and messy organization stretches the imagination even with a hardy suspension of disbelief. For a spy story, it’s surprisingly interior focused rather than action packed. The cast is technically diverse in ethnic background, but this has next to no influence on the characters.

It’s fine, but it doesn’t live up to its potential as a STEM-plus-caper adventure. (Thriller. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1491-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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