There’s no mystery here: Skip it.



From the Sam Stellar Mystery series , Vol. 1

Samantha Stellar and her cousin, Paige, are off to a summer internship at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta—a dinosaur museum. 

Sam is nervous about the upcoming internship due to a rash of thefts of fossils, heists that have occurred across Canada. On the bus ride to Drumheller, Sam, a white girl who figures herself as an amateur sleuth, spots a “mysterious passenger” with a “swarthy complexion” who looks “very Latin,” which computes to “very suspicious!” Dubbing him Agent D, she decides to keep a “covert eye” on the “dark stranger,” the bulge in whose jacket is obviously a gun. At the museum, Sam is paired with Jackson, a university student who works with her to sort through dinosaur fossils. When a vertebra disappears from the collection, Jackson is added to Sam’s suspect list. After all, he speaks Spanish, just like Agent D (although he is cute and white). She decides to get to the bottom of this case, especially after she spots Agent D in the museum parking lot. A series of nonsensical searches for Agent D includes a motel visit in which Sam uses “Marge Simpson” as an alias, successfully convincing the clerk to share confidential guest information with two 14-year-olds. The plot is clichéd, the dialogue cheesy, the protagonist beyond silly—and the easy racism never seems to be called into question.

There’s no mystery here: Skip it. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55050-943-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Coteau Books

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Fluid prose elucidates a life much stranger than fiction.


MacColl's second novel brings to life the childhood of future aviator and writer Beryl Markham (Prisoners in the Palace, 2010).

Born Beryl Clutterbuck, she moved with her family to the highlands of Kenya as a toddler. Not long after, her mother and brother returned to England, abandoning her with her rough though loving father. MacColl's account begins when a leopard steals into Beryl's hut and attacks her dog—the child leaping from her bed to give chase. Though she loses the leopard in the night, the next morning, she and her new friend, a Nandi boy, Kibii, find the dog still alive and save it. Later she insists on being part of the hunt for the leopard. Young Beryl wants nothing more than to be a warrior, a murani, and to be able to leap higher than her own head. Her jumping skills progress apace, but young white girls, no matter how determined, cannot become part of the Nandi tribe. Her relationship with Kibii's father, the wise Arap Maina, along with a growing awareness of the consequences of her actions, help lead her into a more mature—though still wildly impulsive and daring—life. MacColl intersperses her third-person narrative with faux news reports and first-person diary entries of two decades later, when Beryl Markham became the first person—let alone woman—to fly a plane west from Europe to America.

Fluid prose elucidates a life much stranger than fiction. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8118-7625-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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A cancer story that struggles to evoke either laughter or tears


This Irish import’s 12-year-old narrator laughs to keep from crying.

Aspiring to become a professional comedian, Philip Wright enjoys entertaining his single mother and biggest fan, Kathy, while daily attempting to capture the attention of his art-class crush, “dark-haired goddess” Lucy Wells. When Kathy bursts into tears and locks herself in the bathroom after one of his jokes, Philip thinks he’s lost his touch. Prodded by her best friend, Kathy finally tells Philip that she has breast cancer that will require surgery, chemo, and radiation. Philip is initially enraged at how much this news will affect his world, never mind the impossibility of saying “breast” to his friends and teachers. When he finally faces the reality that he could lose his mom, Philip starts behaving like she matters. This novel has a rather slow beginning, with humor that feels too calculated to succeed, including an extended lisping riff, making fun of his Spanish best friend’s name (Angel, which Philip shortens to “Ang”), and the occasional reference to poo. The author also fails to explain how this family suffers no economic hardships while its only breadwinner cannot work. Nevertheless, middle-grade readers will identify with Philip’s conflicts with his best friend and his antics to win Lucy’s affections. Ang aside, the primary characters all appear to be Irish; absence of racial cues indicates that the default is white.

A cancer story that struggles to evoke either laughter or tears . (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55451-880-7

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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