THE BIG SPLASH

Welcome to Franklin Middle School, where a junior gang of petty thieves and mobsters shakes kids down and humiliates them with water guns. Seventh-grader Matt Stevens, the class detective, is hired by fellow middle-schooler Vinny Biggs (something of a pint-sized Godfather) to recover a lost trinket from Nikki “Fingers,” one of the fastest shots in school. Nikki has decided to go straight because her younger sister has entered the school. This knock-off noir kicks in when Nikki, about to hand over the charm to Matt, is “taken out”—soaked in a place to make it look like she’s had an accident. This humiliation, a highly visible and common practice, immediately turns victims into social outcasts. Matt’s detective instincts tell him that Vinny may have set him up, and he sets out to learn who was really behind this act. Matt Stevens may turn out to be a bankable franchise: His first-person present-tense narration carries in it echoes of Marlowe, and the simple plot makes some crafty twists and turns as it goes along. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8109-7067-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Superb storytelling.

FRANKIE & BUG

When Bug’s traditional summer routine is shaken up, her entire life changes.

It’s 1987, and 10-year-old Beatrice “Bug” Contreras has a plan: spend her summer months with her brother, Danny, on Venice Beach as she has for the past two years. But when 14-year-old Danny—who has matured into the name Daniel—wants more time to himself, Bug learns she will be instead hanging out with 11-year-old Frankie, the nephew of Phillip, her mother’s best friend and their upstairs neighbor. Frankie, who is visiting from Ohio, is trans at a time before this identity was well understood and has not been treated with kindness or acceptance by his parents. Frankie and Bug become fascinated with trying to solve the case of the Midnight Marauder, a serial killer who has been striking in the area. When Phillip is attacked, ending up in the hospital, their investigation swivels, and the titular characters uncover a few untold family tales. Bug and Daniel’s late father was a professor from El Salvador with Indigenous ancestry who spoke Nahuatl as well as Spanish and English. Biracial identity is explored in part through the differences in the siblings’ physical appearances: Their mother is implied to be White, and Daniel—who resembles their father more than Bug does—experiences more overt racism and dives into an exploration of his Salvadoran heritage. Readers interested in complex emotional development and relationships will appreciate each character's subtle nuances.

Superb storytelling. (resources, author’s note) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-8253-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Comical and clever in spots but overall, a sad follow-up to Mystery on Museum Mile (2014).

MYSTERY IN MAYAN MEXICO

From the Eddie Red Undercover series , Vol. 2

A free trip to the Yucatán pitches Edmund, a young artist/sleuth with a photographic memory, and his OCD pal Jonah into a new investigation involving an unsolved old crime and disappearing gold.

Edmund opens his account sitting in a jail cell, clad in a wet Darth Vader costume, covered in scratches, blood and barf (“I smell awesome”), his wrist in a cast—and really not looking forward to calling his parents. Following this magnificent lead-in, though, the tale goes downhill rapidly, from the disappearance of an ancient gold mask to the climactic struggle with a knife-wielding thief atop a rain-swept Mayan ruin. In between, Wells concocts a nonsensically contrived caper involving Hebrew orthography, poorly integrated “evidence” from false fingerprints to glimpses of the bad guy dressed as a museum guard, and an obvious, no-brainer clue to where the gold is hidden that has somehow gone misunderstood for decades. Moreover, even less-reflective readers will wonder how Edmund and Jonah can break into an apartment and bend various other laws in the course of their investigation without suffering any legal consequences. Along the way, Jonah’s practice of smearing a gift-store Mayan effigy with peanut-butter and blood “sacrifices” comes off more like cultural mockery than harmless fooling. Calo’s accomplished drawings bring characters and details to life but are both rare and, sometimes, too finished to believably represent Edmund’s quick sketches.

Comical and clever in spots but overall, a sad follow-up to Mystery on Museum Mile (2014). (appendix of Mayan gods) (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-30206-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more