THE FACELESS FIEND

BEING THE TALE OF A CRIMINAL MASTERMIND, HIS MASKED MINIONS AND PRINCESS WITH A BUTTER KNIFE, INVOLVING EXPLOSIVES AND A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF PUSHING AND SHOVING

Along with offering a leading candidate for Year’s Best Title, this rousing sequel to The Strictest School in the World (2006) pits the wonderfully motley household of Mad Aunt Lucy Butterworth against not only the villainous girls’-school Headmistress from last time, but a new crew of thugs led by a sinister secret agent whose face has been blown off. Centered on exiled young Princess Purnah of Chiligrit, a small country strategically located on the borders of India, Tibet, Russia and Norway, the action consists almost entirely of sudden attacks, chases, kidnappings, escapes and rescues, with breaks for tea and cakes, as the characters move from the Yorkshire countryside to Victorian London. Given to stunningly bloodthirsty remarks (“In Chiligrit, stranglings is everyday-goings-on. Also other murderings, and kidnappings and daily thievings of sheep and goats. I miss it very much.”), Purnah is just one of several memorable characters here, all coming to life both in the narrative and in Slavin’s usually hilarious drawings. With help from Sherlock (“I thought you were imaginary!”) Holmes himself and a variety of early aeronautical devices, the baddies ultimately get it in the neck—literally in one case, though not decisively enough to rule out more installments. Bring them on. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-55453-130-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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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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A killer thriller.

THREE HOURS IN PARIS

Black takes time out from chronicling the neighborhood-themed exploits of half-French detective Aimée Leduc to introduce a heroine as American as apple pie.

Kate Rees never expected to see Paris again, especially not under these circumstances. Born and bred in rural Oregon, she earned a scholarship to the Sorbonne, where she met Dafydd, a handsome Welshman who stole her heart. The start of World War II finds the couple stationed in the Orkney Islands, where Kate impresses Alfred Stepney of the War Department with the rifle skills she developed helping her dad and five brothers protect the family’s cattle. After unimaginable tragedy strikes, Stepney recruits Kate for a mission that will allow her to channel her newly ignited rage against the Germans who’ve just invaded France. She’s parachuted into the countryside, where her fluent French should help her blend in. Landing in a field, she hops a milk train to Paris, where she plans to shoot Adolf Hitler as he stands on the steps of Sacre-Coeur. Instead, she kills his admiral and has to flee through the streets of Paris, struggling to hook up with the rescuers who are supposed to extract her. Meanwhile, Gunter Hoffman, a career policeman in a wartime assignment with the Reichssicherheitsdienst security forces, is charged with finding the assassin who dared attempt to kill the Führer. It’s hard to see how it can end well for both the cop and the cowgirl. The heroine’s flight is too episodic to capitalize on Black’s skill at character development, but she’s great at raising readers’ blood pressure.

A killer thriller.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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BRIAN'S RETURN

Paulsen brings the story he began in Hatchet (1987) and continued in the alternate sequels The River (1991) and Brian’s Winter (1996) around to a sometimes-mystical close. Surviving the media coverage and the unwanted attention of other high school students has become more onerous to Brian than his experiences in the wild; realizing that the wilderness has become larger within him than the need to be with people, Brian methodically gathers survival equipment—listed in detail—then leaves his old life behind. It takes some time, plus a brutal fight and sessions with a savvy counselor, before Brian reaches that realization, but once out under the trees, it’s obvious that his attachment to the wild is a permanent one. Becoming ever more attuned to the natural wonders around him, he travels over a succession of lakes and streams, pausing to make camp, howl with a wolf, read Shakespeare to a pair of attentive otters and, once, to share a meal with an old man who talks about animal guides and leaves a medicine bundle for him. Readers hoping for the high adventure of the previous books may be disappointed, as Brian is now so skilled that a tipped canoe or a wild storm are only inconveniences, and even bears more hazard than threat; still, Paulsen bases many of his protagonist’s experiences on his own, and the wilderness through which Brian moves is vividly observed. Afterword. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-385-32500-2

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1998

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