A paranormal that’s at its best when it’s real.

SUPERNATURAL HERO

Remarkably, this ghost story is much sadder before Andy’s grandfather dies than afterward.

This middle-grade fantasy opens by showing the full pain of losing someone to cancer. At the funeral, in a lovely moment, Andy thinks, “I can’t tell if they’re all crying for Grandpa or if other people have died as well and they’re also being buried today. I don’t dare ask anyone.” But when Grandpa comes back as a spirit, the book turns instantly hopeful. He’s smiling, and he promises never to leave his grandson. The change in tone works surprisingly well at first, but in its later chapters, the book becomes a comic adventure, with Grandpa giving Andy tips on how to woo his crush, and then, abruptly, a thriller, complete with an evil phantom who threatens said crush. This figure appears and, literally, disappears with so little warning that the novel turns into a cartoon, but Krac’s surreal, smudged gray-black drawings are so disturbing that they add a whole layer of menace to the story. Unfortunately, they don’t make the underwritten love interest any less of a cliché (or the cast less uniformly white). Gadot leaves too many plot points unexplained—perhaps to set up later books in the trilogy—but in its slowest, most nuanced scenes, this story about ghosts shows the entire richness of life.

A paranormal that’s at its best when it’s real. (Supernatural adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-58270-688-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Beyond Words Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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Nellie Bly’s contemporary namesake does her proud.

THE NEWSPAPER CLUB

From the Newspaper Club series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Nellie’s investigative reporting leads her to solve a mystery, start a newspaper, and learn key lessons about growing up.

Nellie’s voice is frank and often funny—and always full of information about newspapers. She tells readers of the first meeting of her newspaper club and then says, “But maybe I’m burying the lede…what Dad calls it when a reporter puts the most interesting part…in the middle or toward the end.” (This and other journalism vocabulary is formally defined in a closing glossary.) She backtracks to earlier that summer, when she and her mother were newly moved into a house next to her mother’s best friend in rural Bear Creek, Maine. Nellie explains that the newspaper that employed both of her parents in “the city” had folded soon after her father left for business in Asia. When Bear Creek Park gets closed due to mysterious, petty crimes, Nellie feels compelled to investigate. She feels closest to her dad when on the park’s swings, and she is more comfortable interviewing adults than befriending peers. Getting to know a plethora of characters through Nellie’s eyes is as much fun as watching Nellie blossom. Although astute readers will have guessed the park’s vandalizers, they are rewarded by observing Nellie’s fact-checking process. A late revelation about Nellie’s father does not significantly detract from this fully realized story of a young girl adjusting admirably to new circumstances. Nellie and her mother present white; secondary characters are diverse.

Nellie Bly’s contemporary namesake does her proud. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-9685-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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90 MILES TO HAVANA

After Castro’s takeover, nine-year-old Julian and his older brothers are sent away by their fearful parents via “Operation Pedro Pan” to a camp in Miami for Cuban-exile children. Here he discovers that a ruthless bully has essentially been put in charge. Julian is quicker-witted than his brothers or anyone else ever imagined, though, and with his inherent smarts, developing maturity and the help of child and adult friends, he learns to navigate the dynamics of the camp and surroundings and grows from the former baby of the family to independence and self-confidence. A daring rescue mission at the end of the novel will have readers rooting for Julian even as it opens his family’s eyes to his courage and resourcefulness. This autobiographical novel is a well-meaning, fast-paced and often exciting read, though at times the writing feels choppy. It will introduce readers to a not-so-distant period whose echoes are still felt today and inspire admiration for young people who had to be brave despite frightening and lonely odds. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

 

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59643-168-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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