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THE SECRET OF GOLDENROD

This solid middle-grade book shines with wisdom and compassion.

A young girl and her father, both white, move into a run-down mansion that is reputed to be haunted.

When almost-11-year-old Trina Maxwell’s father takes a job to restore a decrepit Queen Anne mansion known as Goldenrod on the outskirts of New Royal, Iowa (population 397), Trina isn’t thrilled. It’s another move in a lifetime of moves since her mother left nearly eight years ago, and besides, the house is spooky. Things don't get better when Trina enters the fifth grade at the new school, since her classmates have known one another since kindergarten and don’t seem to welcome a newcomer—especially one that lives at Goldenrod. When Trina discovers an old dollhouse and a surprising doll in the mansion’s turret room, she begins to research the first occupants of the house, which include a little girl, Annie, the original owner of the doll. In a pitch-perfect, third-person narration, Trina discovers why the townspeople fear Goldenrod, even as her own fears subside when she realizes the house is trying to tell her something. O’Reilly’s multilayered story is superbly presented. Loss, acceptance, coming together to accomplish goals, facing fears, and overcoming rejection are all bathed in the golden light that is the richness of living.

This solid middle-grade book shines with wisdom and compassion. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5124-0135-6

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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FINALLY, SOMETHING MYSTERIOUS

From the One and Onlys series , Vol. 1

Delightful fun for budding mystery fans.

Only children, rejoice! A cozy mystery just for you! (People with siblings will probably enjoy it too.)

Debut novelist Cornett introduces the One and Onlys, a trio of mystery-solving only kids: Gloria Longshanks “Shanks” Hill, Alexander “Peephole” Calloway, and narrator Paul (alas, no nickname) Marconi. The trio has a knack for finding and solving low-level mysteries, but they come up against a true head-scratcher when the yard of a resident of their small town is covered in rubber ducks overnight. Working ahead of Officer Portnoy, who’s a little on the slow side, can Paul, Shanks, and Peephole solve the mystery? Cornett has a lot of fun with this adventure, dropping additional side mysteries, a subplot about small businesses, big corporations, and economics, and a town’s love of bratwurst into the mix. Most importantly, he plays fair with the clues throughout, allowing astute readers to potentially solve the case ahead of the trio. The tone and mystery are perfect for younger readers who want to test their detective skills but are put off by anything scary or gory. The pacing would serve well for chapter-by-chapter read-alouds. If there are any quibbles, it’s the lack of diversity of the cast, as it defaults white. Diversity exists in small towns, and this one is crying out for more. Hopefully a sequel will introduce additional faces.

Delightful fun for budding mystery fans. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-3003-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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EVIL SPY SCHOOL THE GRAPHIC NOVEL

From the Spy School series , Vol. 3

Will satisfy fans but could be better.

Young CIA agent-in-training Benjamin Ripley switches sides—or is he just going undercover?—in this graphic version of the third Spy School caper.

Sticking to the plot of the 2015 original, this episode sees the talented math whiz recruited by nefarious organization SPYDER after being (unjustly, he fumes) kicked out of the CIA’s academy. While training in a hidden school for evildoers with other prospective villains, including Ashley Sparks, a gushy former competitive gymnast with a fondness for portmanteau words (sweet + awesome = swawesome), Ben gets wind of a dastardly scheme to make billions on government construction projects. Hot if inept pursuit by both rival espionage agencies takes Ben from a secret underground command center to the top of the Statue of Liberty. But while the action has a rapid flow in the art (Sarkar is good at portraying fights, high-speed chases, and explosions), several characters are drawn with generic features and such a limited range of expressions that even with help from the cast gallery, it’s hard to tell them apart easily. Still, along with coming through in the suspenseful climax—thanks to clever deductions and quick thinking—by the end, Ben has also achieved a long-sought breakthrough with Erica Hale (code name “Ice Queen”), a superbly omnicompetent schoolmate who has his heart as well as his back. The cast largely presents white.

Will satisfy fans but could be better. (Graphic thriller. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781665931946

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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