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THE INTERNATIONAL HOUSE OF DERELICTION

Well cast, well told, but mostly just terrific.

A project-oriented child has her work cut out for her in a long-abandoned house with several resident ghosts.

No sooner does 10-year-old Alice discover that the derelict house next door has a heartbeat and is somehow aware of her than she knows what she must do. First, fix up at least the living room—a task of which she is perfectly capable, having assisted her father in refurbishing the last 11 houses they have lived in. Second, help the four ghosts she meets resolve the “Unfinished Business of the Heart” that’s kept them from moving on. This proves considerably more difficult—but with Alice’s being “a rare old soul with more flint and steel in her small body than most people might have guessed,” it’s not impossible despite obstacles ranging from a furious poltergeist to righting the shocking, shocking wrong of an overdue library book. Davies really cranks up the climax with the unexpected arrival of a demolition crew, but by that time the cast has already made this a magically immersive experience. Only the stony of heart could fail to fall in love with clever, competent, resolute Alice or, for that matter, the supporting cast that includes her adorable parents and a host of unfailingly interesting ancestors. On their way to the poignant, satisfying close, thoughtful readers may find some new insight into what Goodnight Moon is actually about, too. The cast reads White. Final art not seen.

Well cast, well told, but mostly just terrific. (Paranormal. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 18, 2023

ISBN: 9780063258075

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Clarion/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

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FAKER

Glitzy glimpses of life on the make, lightened by a focus on alternatives rather than consequences.

A con man’s son yearns for a different way of life.

Having helped his single dad fleece wealthy marks since kindergarten, Trey is adept at spotting their rich offspring in each new school he attends and cultivating them until the time comes for a quick getaway. Now that he’s 12, though, the urge to make real friends and put down some roots has become insistent—particularly since he’s drawn to Kaylee, a new classmate in his latest middle school. How can he convince his dad, who’s in the midst of luring local investors into a fantastically lucrative scheme involving a fictive electric car, that it’s time to bag the family profession and settle down? Korman goes more for ironic humor than the physical or stand-up sort in this book, as shown by Trey’s enrollment in an ethics class that forces him into some decidedly hypocritical stances. Much like Trey himself, instant new bestie Logan and his parents turn out to be not at all who they seem. And though there are no bullies or real baddies in the cast on the way to the story’s rosy but implausible resolution, Trey’s malign, high-strung, and wildly reckless huckster of a little sister from hell definitely adds both conflict and suspense to this provocative outing. Main characters read white.

Glitzy glimpses of life on the make, lightened by a focus on alternatives rather than consequences. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781338826753

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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