THE GRAVEYARD GANG

Duffy, creator of such sturdy stories as Cleaver of the Good Luck Diner and more contemplative novels by ``Pieter Van Raven'' (The Great Man's Secret), rides roughshod over expectations. Sandy Prescott and her retired friend Agatha Bates (Missing; The Man in the River) are sidelined while readers meet wealthy, lonely Amy Abbott, who has lost her father in a car accident and her mother to temporary mental instability and chronic snobbishness. When Amy becomes friends with one of the small New Hampshire town's lesser lights, Bigmouth Jenkins, she keeps the connection secret. But when Bigmouth is murdered, Amy is a prime suspect; Sandy, Agatha, and other friends in a club known as the Graveyard Gang solve the case, making the real murderer crack under pressure (he also cracks up in a car). Amy's high-strung nature is over-explained with too many recaps of her past, while information about Agatha, Sandy, and the town is shoehorned in. The dialogue is stiff and drawn out with stultifying repetitions, and the mystery is bland and predictable; the only real shocker here is its clumsy presentation. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 30, 1993

ISBN: 0-684-19449-X

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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NIM'S ISLAND

A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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THE SCHOOL STORY

A world-class charmer, Clements (The Janitor’s Boy, 2000, etc.) woos aspiring young authors—as well as grown up publishers, editors, agents, parents, teachers, and even reviewers—with this tongue-in-cheek tale of a 12-year-old novelist’s triumphant debut. Sparked by a chance comment of her mother’s, a harried assistant editor for a (surely fictional) children’s imprint, Natalie draws on deep reserves of feeling and writing talent to create a moving story about a troubled schoolgirl and her father. First, it moves her pushy friend Zoe, who decides that it has to be published; then it moves a timorous, second-year English teacher into helping Zoe set up a virtual literary agency; then, submitted pseudonymously, it moves Natalie’s unsuspecting mother into peddling it to her waspish editor-in-chief. Depicting the world of children’s publishing as a delicious mix of idealism and office politics, Clements squires the manuscript past slush pile and contract, the editing process, and initial buzz (“The Cheater grabs hold of your heart and never lets go,” gushes Kirkus). Finally, in a tearful, joyous scene—carefully staged by Zoe, who turns out to be perfect agent material: cunning, loyal, devious, manipulative, utterly shameless—at the publication party, Natalie’s identity is revealed as news cameras roll. Selznick’s gnomic, realistic portraits at once reflect the tale’s droll undertone and deftly capture each character’s distinct personality. Terrific for flourishing school writing projects, this is practical as well as poignant. Indeed, it “grabs hold of yourheart and never lets go.” (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-82594-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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