Eerie and hopeful: family tragedy and reconciliation wrapped in a zombie encounter.

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GREAT BALL OF LIGHT

When a lightning strike near the dead maple tree seems to produce a ball of lightning, Fiona and her twin are certain something extraordinary is at hand.

Sensible narrator Fiona North is nearly 13. At the urging of the less-cautious Fenton, she captures the ball of light in a canning jar. When the twins notice new growth on the tree, Fenton’s interest at first is in fame and fortune, experimenting with various small dead creatures to determine the ability of the ball of light to restore some kind of life. The tree, impressively abundant, turns itself into a hybrid maple/apple. A beetle’s missing leg temporarily regrows, yet other results are mixed. The dog is next, followed by Grandpa, whose reappearance they hope will enliven his depressed widow. Scruffy the dog and the grandfather remain partially decomposed, incomplete. Still, each thing brought back to life is changed, and not only from dead to undead. Fiona’s explanation: Free will to choose the deepest self is available both in life and death. Though the family finds itself on the run after the accidental shooting death (and subsequent reanimation) of the father’s fiancee, Fiona’s analysis of their predicament remains optimistic. Kuhlman’s voice for Fiona is both wry and earnest, the gravity of her philosophical musings balanced by un–self-conscious humor.

Eerie and hopeful: family tragedy and reconciliation wrapped in a zombie encounter. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6461-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick.

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THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON

An elderly witch, a magical girl, a brave carpenter, a wise monster, a tiny dragon, paper birds, and a madwoman converge to thwart a magician who feeds on sorrow.

Every year Elders of the Protectorate leave a baby in the forest, warning everyone an evil Witch demands this sacrifice. In reality, every year, a kind witch named Xan rescues the babies and find families for them. One year Xan saves a baby girl with a crescent birthmark who accidentally feeds on moonlight and becomes “enmagicked.” Magic babies can be tricky, so Xan adopts little Luna herself and lovingly raises her, with help from an ancient swamp monster and a chatty, wee dragon. Luna’s magical powers emerge as her 13th birthday approaches. Meanwhile, Luna’s deranged real mother enters the forest to find her daughter. Simultaneously, a young carpenter from the Protectorate enters the forest to kill the Witch and end the sacrifices. Xan also enters the forest to rescue the next sacrificed child, and Luna, the monster, and the dragon enter the forest to protect Xan. In the dramatic denouement, a volcano erupts, the real villain attempts to destroy all, and love prevails. Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces. Luna has black eyes, curly, black hair, and “amber” skin.

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-567-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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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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