Rendered with exquisite sensory detail, this hero’s journey is a resonant read for unsettling times.


A hazardous choice on a family trip generates cascading events that leave a teen struggling to survive in the Oregon wilderness.

Unlike her father, 13-year-old Francie and her mother enjoy hiking. During the family’s drive from Penticton, British Columbia, to the Grand Canyon, Dad opts for a shortcut that his new GPS indicates should cut 100 miles from their trip. Mom’s doubts—his road’s not on her paper map—prove justified as the road grows rougher and night approaches. Francie reads her survival guidebook and naps until a rock takes out their truck. Making the best of things—they’ve got camping gear, though little food and no cellphone (her parents don’t like them)—they spend a night in the vast, beautiful forest. The next morning, Dad sets off for help, carrying their tent and the GPS. As days of waiting pass, Mom—mentally unstable since Francie’s twin sister died from a congenital heart defect—starts behaving erratically. Francie copes with her own fear by planning and preparing for contingencies. She’ll need all her hard-won knowledge as challenges mount. Resourceful, doggedly careful, courageous Francie brightens this often somber tale. As she’s recovering from a scary bear encounter, the clear night sky enchants her. Her love and respect for the wilderness, its plants and denizens who are simply trying—like her—to survive, shine. Francie and her parents are White.

Rendered with exquisite sensory detail, this hero’s journey is a resonant read for unsettling times. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6781-7

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Puffin/Penguin Random House Canada

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when...


Two sisters make an unauthorized expedition to their former hometown and in the process bring together the two parts of their divided family.

Dooley packs plenty of emotion into this eventful road trip, which takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. Twelve-year-old Ophelia, nicknamed Fella, and her 16-year-old sister, Zoey Grace, aka Zany, are the daughters of a lesbian couple, Shannon and Lacy, who could not legally marry. The two white girls squabble and share memories as they travel from West Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, where Zany is determined to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in accordance with her wishes. The year is 2004, before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and the girls have been separated by hostile, antediluvian custodial laws. Fella’s present-tense narration paints pictures not just of the difficulties they face on the trip (a snowstorm, car trouble, and an unlikely thief among them), but also of their lives before Mama Lacy’s illness and of the ways that things have changed since then. Breathless and engaging, Fella’s distinctive voice is convincingly childlike. The conversations she has with her sister, as well as her insights about their relationship, likewise ring true. While the girls face serious issues, amusing details and the caring adults in their lives keep the tone relatively light.

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when Fella’s family figures out how to come together in a new way . (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16504-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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


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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