A saucy, likable heroine shines in a mystery marked by clever, unexpected twists

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PREMEDITATED MYRTLE

From the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery series , Vol. 1

An aspiring sleuth in Victorian England is convinced her neighbor’s death was no accident.

Twelve-year-old Myrtle, who might have just been spying—er, Observing!—the neighborhood with her telescope, is convinced that prickly Miss Wodehouse has been the victim of foul play. Though the police say the old lady had a heart attack, Myrtle disagrees. With her magnifying lens, her specimen jars, and her stubbornness, Myrtle will prove the old lady was killed—and find the murderer, to boot. Though unpopular Myrtle leans in to a self-image as “the precocious daughter who lurked about everywhere being impertinent and morbid,” she has allies. Her interest in detecting comes from her affection for her adoring prosecutor father and the memory of her medical-student mother. Myrtle, middle-class and white, is encouraged by her equally quirky and exceedingly clever governess, Miss Judson (the multilingual, biracial daughter of white British and black French Guianese parents), who is at best half-hearted in her attempts to keep Myrtle out of trouble. Meanwhile, Caroline, a British Indian girl who’s been mean before, disassociates herself from Myrtle’s bully and becomes a staunch and equally geeky friend. Witty prose doesn’t always hew to historical accuracy but keeps the characters accessible and quite charming while Myrtle (surrounded by beloved and supportive adults) avoids many of the more tired tropes of the eccentric-detective genre.

A saucy, likable heroine shines in a mystery marked by clever, unexpected twists . (Historical mystery. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-918-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood.

REBOUND

In this prequel to Newbery Award–winning The Crossover (2014), Alexander revisits previous themes and formats while exploring new ones.

For Charlie Bell, the future father of The Crossover’s Jordan and Josh, his father’s death alters his relationship with his mother and causes him to avoid what reminds him of his dad. At first, he’s just withdrawn, but after he steals from a neighbor, his mother packs a reluctant Charlie off to his grandparents near Washington, D.C., for the summer. His grandfather works part-time at a Boys and Girls Club where his cousin Roxie is a star basketball player. Despite his protests, she draws him into the game. His time with his grandparents deepens Charlie’s understanding of his father, and he begins to heal. “I feel / a little more normal, / like maybe he’s still here, / … in a / as long as I remember him / he’s still right here / in my heart / kind of way.” Once again, Alexander has given readers an African-American protagonist to cheer. He is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, especially two brilliant female characters, his friend CJ and his cousin Roxie, as well as his feisty and wise granddaddy. Music and cultural references from the late 1980s add authenticity. The novel in verse is enhanced by Anyabwile’s art, which reinforces Charlie’s love for comics.

An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood. (Historical verse fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-86813-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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A satisfying, winning read.

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BOOKED

Nick Hall is a bright eighth-grader who would rather do anything other than pay attention in class.

Instead he daydreams about soccer, a girl he likes, and an upcoming soccer tournament. His linguistics-professor father carefully watches his educational progress, requiring extra reading and word study, much to Nick’s chagrin and protest. Fortunately, his best friend, Coby, shares his passion for soccer—and, sadly, the unwanted attention of twin bullies in their school. Nick senses something is going on with his parents, but their announcement that they are separating is an unexpected blow: “it’s like a bombshell / drops / right in the center / of your heart / and it splatters / all across your life.” The stress leads to counseling, and his life is further complicated by injury and emergency surgery. His soccer dream derailed, Nick turns to the books he has avoided and finds more than he expected. Alexander’s highly anticipated follow-up to Newbery-winning The Crossover is a reflective narrative, with little of the first book’s explosive energy. What the mostly free-verse novel does have is a likable protagonist, great wordplay, solid teen and adult secondary characters, and a clear picture of the challenges young people face when self-identity clashes with parental expectations. The soccer scenes are vivid and will make readers wish for more, but the depiction of Nick as he unlocks his inner reader is smooth and believable.

A satisfying, winning read. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-57098-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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