West’s tale, decorated with Aly’s eerie, cartoon art, is well worth reading on its own—the writing manual takes it to a...

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DIGGING UP DANGER

From the Story Pirates Presents series , Vol. 2

Arrr you ready to read (and possibly write) a spooky mystery?

Following series opener Stuck in the Stone Age (2018), performers and writing teachers the Story Pirates issue their second novel and writing-manual mashup; this time, it’s a ghostly mystery. Thirteen-year-old Eliza Stahl and her botanist mother plan to spend a couple of summer months helping rare-plant dealers Winston and Camilla Carroll identify exotic plants at their shop in New York City. Eliza’s reluctant until she sees the shop; she wants to be a paranormal investigator, and she’s sure Carrolls’ Gardens is haunted. Strange noises in the attic, a shadowy figure, and the odd behavior of the Carrolls and their teenage nephew, Tommy, prompt Eliza to suspect ghosts and even possession. When a rare plant goes missing, Eliza’s mother joins the investigation…but things are about to get weird! Eliza and her mom present white, while the Carrolls are people of color. As with the first in the Story Pirates Present series, this shivery mystery was inspired by a story idea from a real kid: here, Phoebe Wolinetz. Periodically throughout the tale, Rolo (captain of the Story Pirates) and Wolinetz pop up in an illustration to direct readers interested in the crafting of the mystery to the Mystery Construction Zone, 90 pages of detailed writing instruction, at the back. It’s a fantastic, step-by-step guide with prompts, ideas, definitions, and forms for aspiring Edgar winners.

West’s tale, decorated with Aly’s eerie, cartoon art, is well worth reading on its own—the writing manual takes it to a whole other level. (Paranormal mystery/nonfiction hybrid. 8-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63565-091-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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