GUARDIANS OF THE HIDDEN SCEPTER

In this mystery adventure, four star students struggle to save the world when their slightly eccentric teacher vanishes, leaving cryptic messages behind; they have only their ingenuity and expertise to solve the puzzles. Fifteen-year-old Amber relates the unfolding drama as she is joined by her friends: fashionista Lisa, techno-whiz Trendon and imperturbable Joseph. Apparently Ms. Holcomb knew she was heading for what appears to be a possible kidnapping, but she is less concerned with being rescued than she is with the safety of a powerful artifact—the Tebah Stick—connected to the original Ark of the Bible. Heavy with Indiana Jones overtones, the relic is both hugely powerful and sought by evildoers who want to use the power of the Tebah Stick to rule the world. Chance and knowledge combine to help the kids work out the clues as danger increases. Astute readers will find the clues a mixture of the opaque and the easy, but this is not realistic fiction, and the complications and daring escapades take it a big step beyond Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys in excitement. The dire consequences of failing are so exaggerated that solving the puzzles may not be much fun for readers, but those who favor a little fantasy element in their mystery will enjoy the ride. (Adventure. 11-15)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59955-448-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bonneville Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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Tender and thought-provoking but wobbling on a shaky moral compass

THE NINTH DAY

A shy, injured Jewish teen travels from Berkeley’s 1964 student protests to 11th-century Paris, where only she can save a newborn.

Hope, the granddaughter of Blue Thread’s (2012) suffragist heroine, is a lovely singer but has trouble speaking out. She’s shy, for one thing, and ashamed of her stutter. She’s overwhelmed by her pushy older siblings. And finally, she has facial scarring—and occasional acid flashbacks—from injuries sustained when she accidentally downed LSD disguised as candy. At first, she takes it for a flashback when she’s visited by Serakh, a time traveler from biblical times, but Serakh is very real and needs her help. In the year 1099, young Dolcette has just given birth, and her husband, Avram, is convinced a vision has ordered him to kill the child; Serakh is certain Hope will be the child’s salvation. Hope wonders if his visions might come from a similar source as her own flashbacks. Meanwhile, in the modern world, Hope’s self-absorbed and strong-willed siblings threaten to drag her into more trouble than she can handle. As Hope pops between Hanukkahs nearly 900 years apart, she needs to solve her own family crises while navigating modern radical politics and saving a child’s life. A character in the 20th century is rightly condemned (by Hope and the novel) for thinking one can solve other people’s problems by slipping them hallucinogens; unfortunately Hope’s solution to Avram’s problem rests on that very act.

Tender and thought-provoking but wobbling on a shaky moral compass . (Historical fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-932010-65-7

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Ooligan Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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Despite its potential, though, it’s likely that the book will have limited appeal.

THE PATH OF NAMES

Goelman’s debut novel, part summer-camp tale, part ghost story and part murder mystery, is served with a sprinkling of math and a heavy dose of often-confusing Jewish orthodoxy.

Thirteen-year-old math and magic geek Dahlia reluctantly agrees to three weeks at a Jewish summer camp. There, the ghosts of two little girls visit her, and she begins to dream of David Schank, a young yeshiva student in New York in the 1930s. Soon, she realizes his spirit has possessed her; he is an ibur who needs her help to complete a task he began when alive. The novel alternates between David’s story, in which he first discovers and then fails to hide from the Illuminated Ones the 72nd name of God, and Dahlia’s, as she attempts to figure out what the ghosts and the spirit want and why the creepy caretaker won’t let any children into the camp’s overgrown hedge maze. A substantial cast of characters, multiple plot twists in both narrative storylines, some subplots that go nowhere, a golem, gematria or Jewish numerology, the cabala and more make this novel a challenging read. It’s certainly a refreshing change from the usual focus in middle-grade Jewish fiction on the Holocaust, immigrants and bar/bat mitzvahs, and the inclusion of a girl protagonist who loves math is also welcome.

Despite its potential, though, it’s likely that the book will have limited appeal. (Paranormal mystery. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-47430-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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