A TALE OF TWO CASTLES

A thoroughly delicious romp from the author of Ella Enchanted (1997). Before Lodie leaves the island of Lahnt, her mother warns her to beware ogres, dragons and “the whited sepulcher” (a villain who appears virtuous) in the big town of Two Castles; she inevitably meets all three, encountering danger and friendship where least expected. Lodie’s parents send her away to become a weaver, but the girl plans to become a “mansioner” (actor), like her brother Albin. When she cannot secure a free apprenticeship, she finds herself working for the enigmatic dragon Masteress Meenore, a food vendor and amateur detective. Lodie soon employs her imitative and observational mansioning skills—and Meenore’s lessons in “deduction, induction, and common sense”—to investigate thefts and threats at ogre Count Jonty Um’s royalty-crowded castle. When local prejudices and political intrigue throw the court into an uproar, Lodie must solve the many mysteries or face execution. Fairy tales and classic myths are cleverly woven into the story, but the gritty medieval conditions—poverty, hunger, lice and cruel nobles—provide the dramatic tension and realistic motivation for the adventurous and intelligent Lodie. The plot is winningly unpredictable, the characters easy to relate to, the humor subtle and the action well-paced. Newbery Honor–winner Levine has once again breathed new life into old stories. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-122965-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read.

ALI CROSS

The prolific king of the beach read is back with an intergenerational mystery for the 9-to-12-year-old set.

Ali Cross, the son of Patterson’s most famous creation, African American homicide detective Alex Cross, is “starting to think the worst might have happened” to his mixed-race friend Gabriel “Gabe” Qualls, who disappeared on Dec. 21 and hasn’t been heard from as of Christmas Eve, when the book opens. Ali offers an impromptu prayer for Gabe at the pre-holiday service at his all-black church as well as an impromptu press conference outside of it as journalists and paparazzi confront Alex about his alleged coma-inducing assault of a murder suspect’s father. Then someone robs the Crosses’ home that night along with four other homes; the Crosses’ Christmas gifts are stolen. Ali, obsessed with finding Gabe and feeling that these events will distract his dad and the police from searching for him, starts his own investigation—complete with looking at some contraband footage of Gabe’s unusually loaded backpack obtained by Ali’s stepmother, also a cop—and questioning his school and gaming pals, a diverse group. Writing in Ali’s voice with occasional cutaways to third-person chapters that follow Alex, Patterson sprinkles the narrative with pop-culture references even as he takes readers through the detective process.

Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-53041-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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