THE TATTOOED POTATO AND OTHER CLUES

"Timothy Hay sounds like a fake name," remarks the heroine—oddly, since hers is Dickory Dock, her brother is Donald Dock, and others who make their appearance at and around the Greenwich Village row house where she works include rich collector Julius Panzpresser, fellow art student George Washington III, underworld lackey Shrimps Marinara, elusive artist Roy G. Bliv (to be found not in Who's Who but in the spectrum), three Eldon F. Zyzyskczuks (an exporter on 743 East 84th St., an importer on 734 West 84th St., and a forger who takes advantage of the mix-up in their credit cards—actually, all three are one and the same), and four detectives named Winkle (the blind man), Dinkel (the derelict), Finkel (the exterminator) and Hinkle (the hippy). This bizarre company performs its briskly choreographed masquerade in a series of manic EncyClopedia Brownish cases, set within the larger mystery involving two murdered blackmailers and the identity of Dickory's disguise-happy artist boss, Garson (a/k/a Inspector Noserag, which is almost Garson spelled backwards, and—in the guise of a tattooed sailor—Christina Rossetti), who either is or has murdered the genius Edgar Sonneborg. Strangely enough, simply by piling and tangling up ali the name games and disguises that seem at first just mechanically ludicrous, Raskin wears down your resistance, so that by the time everyone is happily united in jail you'll be laughing as inarticulately as the brain-damaged, one-eyed, deaf-mute, Isaac Bickerstaffe (formerly Frederick Schmaltz).

Pub Date: April 28, 1975

ISBN: 0142416991

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1975

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Full of puzzles to think about, puns to groan at and references to children’s book titles, this solid, tightly plotted read...

ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY

From the Mr. Lemoncello's Library series , Vol. 1

When a lock-in becomes a reality game, 12-year-old Kyle Keeley and his friends use library resources to find their way out of Alexandriaville’s new public library.

The author of numerous mysteries for children and adults turns his hand to a puzzle adventure with great success. Starting with the premise that billionaire game-maker Luigi Lemoncello has donated a fortune to building a library in a town that went without for 12 years, Grabenstein cleverly uses the tools of board and video games—hints and tricks and escape hatches—to enhance this intricate and suspenseful story. Twelve 12-year-old winners of an essay contest get to be the first to see the new facility and, as a bonus, to play his new escape game. Lemoncello’s gratitude to the library of his childhood extends to providing a helpful holographic image of his 1968 librarian, but his modern version also includes changing video screens, touch-screen computers in the reading desks and an Electronic Learning Center as well as floor-to-ceiling bookshelves stretching up three stories. Although the characters, from gamer Kyle to schemer Charles Chiltington, are lightly developed, the benefits of pooling strengths to work together are clear.

Full of puzzles to think about, puns to groan at and references to children’s book titles, this solid, tightly plotted read is a winner for readers and game-players alike. (Mystery. 9-13)

Pub Date: June 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-87089-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

INFINITE COUNTRY

A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: yesterday

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

THE MYSTERIOUS MESSENGER

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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