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An engaging paranormal romp with a quirky and witty young hero.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

In this middle-grade supernatural novel, a tween vows to pull the plug on a ghostly thief’s crime spree in her North Carolina town.

Eleven-year-old Dotty Morgan is a self-proclaimed “supernatural sleuth.” Two years ago, she spotted but failed to catch a gnome stealing fabric from her mom’s sewing room. Now, Dotty investigates any crime with a hint of the supernatural. And when she determines there’s no tangible explanation for why french fries vanished from her oven at home, she’s on the hunt for a spectral larcenist. Sure enough, potato products disappear from stores and restaurants all over town. Dotty has her alarm clock–turned-Arcanometer to detect phantoms, along with helpful pals—her fashion-savvy best friend, Parker Pose, and the new girl at school, wrestler Hannah Matson. Well-read Dotty puts together some spells to draw in and banish the phantom so that she can once again savor her cherished french fries. But she may be after a human suspect as well—a nefarious, formidable individual who summoned this ghostly burglar in the first place. Martin’s adolescent protagonist is endearingly odd. She dons a baseball cap lined with tinfoil (protection from mind control) and webcasts her detective exploits (“I’m staking out Mr. Tanner’s yard, investigating reoccurring instances of mysterious vandalism”). Dotty often finds herself immersed in absorbing, more realistic subplots, from school bullies to her mom’s new health kick subjecting her to such atrocities as sugar-, gluten-, and dairy-free pancakes that taste like Styrofoam. A supernatural element slowly creeps into the swiftly paced, enjoyable narrative, which includes a gratifying final-act payoff and an understated romance between Dotty and Hannah. Sadly, there’s not much sleuthing. Dotty relies on her Arcanometer to track down the apparition and doesn’t gather many clues, designating suspects based on a general wariness. Still, as this book launches a series, there should be copious future opportunities for her to shine.

An engaging paranormal romp with a quirky and witty young hero.

Pub Date: March 17, 2023

ISBN: 9780998118260

Page Count: 232

Publisher: In A Bind Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2023

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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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