Lots of tried and true bits capably, if somewhat arbitrarily, assembled.

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SPINDRIFT AND THE ORCHID

An orphan comes into a fabulous inheritance only to discover that it not only needs defending, but is more a curse than a blessing.

Raised by her enigmatic grandfather, who sells such magical curiosities as strap-on wings, 15-year-old Spindrift knows only that her parents died at sea until a strange customer’s inquiry touches off a chain of astonishing revelations. It seems that the Seven Sages who created the world distilled their essences in the forms of orchids into seven colored crystal balls long ago, and one of them, a black one that can grant certain limited kinds of wishes, has come down in Spindrift’s family. Moreover, after her grandfather reluctantly shares a trove of letters, she learns that her parents had set out to gather the rest but had been betrayed and killed by none other than Roland, the man who had come to the shop. Knowing that Roland already has five of the crystals—and also that they cause far more harm than good—Spindrift sets out both to recover the long-hidden sixth and exact revenge. Trevayne tucks in oblique clues, motif-building references, a neatly disposed-of bully, dark-skinned twins as allies for Spindrift (everyone else in the cast presents as white), a single encounter with an eerie street person, and other elements as if she were checking them off a list.

Lots of tried and true bits capably, if somewhat arbitrarily, assembled. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6259-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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This weave of perceptive, well-told tales wears its agenda with unusual grace.

WAR STORIES

Two young people of different generations get profound lessons in the tragic, enduring legacy of war.

Raised on the thrilling yarns of his great-grandpa Jacob and obsessed with both World War II and first-person–shooter video games, Trevor is eager to join the 93-year-old vet when he is invited to revisit the French town his unit had helped to liberate. In alternating chapters, the overseas trip retraces the parallel journeys of two young people—Trevor, 12, and Jacob, in 1944, just five years older—with similarly idealized visions of what war is like as they travel both then and now from Fort Benning to Omaha Beach and then through Normandy. Jacob’s wartime experiences are an absorbing whirl of hard fighting, sudden death, and courageous acts spurred by necessity…but the modern trip turns suspenseful too, as mysterious stalkers leave unsettling tokens and a series of hostile online posts that hint that Jacob doesn’t have just German blood on his hands. Korman acknowledges the widely held view of World War II as a just war but makes his own sympathies plain by repeatedly pointing to the unavoidable price of conflict: “Wars may have winning sides, but everybody loses.” Readers anticipating a heavy-handed moral will appreciate that Trevor arrives at a refreshingly realistic appreciation of video games’ pleasures and limitations. As his dad puts it: “War makes a better video game….But if you’re looking for a way to live, I’ll take peace every time.”

This weave of perceptive, well-told tales wears its agenda with unusual grace. (Fiction/historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-29020-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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