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


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Flimsily entertaining


From the Black Hollow Lane series , Vol. 2

An American schoolgirl in a British boarding school battles a secret society in this adventure.

In this trope-y sequel to The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane (2019), the students at Wellsworth must stay safe from the evil order that’s been there for generations and still entangles their parents. Emmy, a white, well-to-do Connecticut 12-year-old, is determined to return to Wellsworth even though last year she was nearly killed. The Order of Black Hollow Lane, the mysterious bad guys who are disguised as the school’s Latin Society, want something from Emmy. Her long-lost father, for one, and Emmy’s box of medallions, for another. Why? Do they really need a reason aside from being an evil club full of wickedness determined to find a whole box of MacGuffins that will somehow make them even richer and more powerful or at least propel the plot? In any case the dastardly fiends plague Emmy, framing one of her best friends for theft and leaving cryptic notes and computer files to threaten the lives of Emmy’s loved ones. Though the Order has infiltrated this (nearly all-white, wealthy) school for generations, Emmy must somehow defeat them and save her dad. The quest is peppered with spy-thriller moments that are mostly only thinly sketched and go nowhere, though some (such as a disguise right out of Scooby Doo cartoons) are funny enough to keep the action moving.

Flimsily entertaining . (Adventure. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6467-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A quick pull on a reliable, if not exactly minty-fresh, formula.


Walliams drills into a primal fear with this tale of a new dentist with a decidedly evil agenda.

In a blatant grab at Roald Dahl fans, the author pulls out a cast of cheeky children, thoroughly rotten villains, and clueless but well-meaning grown-ups for a Brit-flavored romp that combines moments of intense terror and bracing courage with biting satire—oh, and gruesome bits. Ross offers a plethora of loosely sketched ink-and-wash vignettes generally indistinguishable from Quentin Blake’s. All over town, children have been putting lost teeth beneath their pillows and, instead of money, getting cat poo, oozing scabs, and like rewards. Worse yet, following shocked comments about the state of 12-year-old Alfie’s “teet,” canny Winnie, a flamboyant new West Indian social worker, tricks the lad into visiting the newly arrived (with her cat, Fang) dentist, Miss Root. Alfie regains consciousness with nary a tooth in his mouth—it seems that Miss Root is the Tooth Witch herself. She’s not to be stopped, either, without help from new, dreadlocked friend (not girlfriend) Gabz, a vat of acid with revolting ingredients (carefully listed), and lots of dynamite. Walliams spritzes the narrative with made-up but not particularly inventive words and large-type screaming. Winnie, dark-skinned Gabz (short for Gabriella), and newsagent Raj are the only notable nonwhite characters; Winnie’s accent is an unfortunate running joke.

A quick pull on a reliable, if not exactly minty-fresh, formula. (pictorial cast list) (Horror. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-241704-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet