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From the Quirks series , Vol. 3

This birthday-anxiety story is made fresh by both the twins’ dynamics and the riddles.

The Quirk twins, about to turn 10, disagree about how to celebrate against a backdrop of magical mishaps.

This year, Grandpa Quill’s Quirkalicious Birthday Hunt will be the toughest yet. (Rules are helpfully spelled out: In the week leading to their birthday, there are five clues; four lead to small gifts and the last to the big one.) Facing a greater-than-expected challenge, Penelope and Molly disagree on how to proceed and who should call the shots. Additionally, for the first time ever, they are having a birthday party with friends. Molly wants her first birthday party to be perfect—and perfectly normal; Penelope’s anxious about being the center of attention and keeping her splashy magic power (her thoughts manifest in reality) under wraps. This conflict of desires is heightened as Pen concludes that Molly’s bossy, and Molly resents the sacrifices she makes to help Penelope control her magic. Additionally, the scavenger hunt’s riddles challenge the girls, but nothing puzzles them more than the seemingly random small gifts. Will the twins reconcile their differences, prevent their birthday party from becoming a disaster and find their big gift? Of course, but the emotional roots of the disagreement will ring true for readers with siblings or close friends, grounding the story with a touch of reality amid the silly magic.

This birthday-anxiety story is made fresh by both the twins’ dynamics and the riddles. (illustrations not seen) (Fantasy. 8-11)

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61963-370-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 3

A fine emotional stretch within reach of the intended audience.

When siblings Jessie and Evan (The Lemonade War, 2007, and The Lemonade Crime, 2011) accompany their mother on the time-honored midwinter holiday visit to their grandmother’s home in the mountains, the changes are alarming.

Fire damage to the house and Grandma’s inability to recognize Evan are as disquieting as the disappearance of the iron bell, hung long ago by their grandmother on Lowell Hill and traditionally rung at the New Year. Davies keeps a tight focus on the children: Points of view switch between Evan, with his empathetic and emotional approach to understanding his world, and Jessie, for whom routine is essential and change a puzzle to be worked out. When Grandma ventures out into the snow just before twilight, it is Evan who realizes the danger and manages to find a way to rescue her. Jessie, determined to solve the mystery of the missing bell, enlists the help of Grandma's young neighbor Maxwell, with his unusual habitual gestures and his surprising ability to solve jigsaw puzzles. She is unprepared, however, for the terror of seeing the neighbor boys preparing a mechanical torture device to tear a live frog to pieces. Each of the siblings brings a personal resilience and heroism to the resolution.

A fine emotional stretch within reach of the intended audience. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-56737-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 2

The second installment in this spirited series is a hit.

A new baby coming means Ryan has lots of opportunities to grow love.

Ryan has so much to look forward to this summer—she is going to be a big sister, and she finally gets to go to church camp! But new adventures bring challenges, too. Ryan feels like the baby is taking forever to arrive, and with Mom on bed rest, she isn’t able to participate in the family’s typical summer activities. Ryan’s Dad is still working the late shift, which means he gets home and goes to bed when she and her older brother, Ray, are waking up, so their quality daddy-daughter time is limited to one day a week. When the time for camp finally arrives, Ryan is so worried about bugs, ghosts, and sharing a cabin that she wonders if she should go at all. Watson’s heroine is smart and courageous, bringing her optimistic attitude to any challenge she faces. Hard topics like family finances and complex relationships with friends are discussed in an age-appropriate way. Watson continues to excel at crafting a sense of place; she transports readers to Portland, Oregon, with an attention to detail that can only come from someone who has loved that city. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and occasional illustrations by Mata spotlight their joy and make this book shine.

The second installment in this spirited series is a hit. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0058-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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