A lively, inventive romp with plenty of spirit!


In Dean’s middle-grade debut, a boy must adjust to life as a ghost and de-haunt the family that’s moved into his house.

12-year-old Evan Cameron and his dad have just moved to Bainbridge, California. Evan likes books and baseball. He’s excited about their new house but sad to leave his friends behind. What will his life be like? Unfortunately for Evan, the answer is: short! The day after they move in, Evan, his dad, and their dog, Buzzby, wake to find all their possessions gone. Nobody can see or touch them. They have died in their sleep—carbon monoxide poisoning from the old boiler. They are ghosts! On top of this shock, Evan is horrified to find a new family moving into their now-empty house. There’s Mrs. Fraidy, a single mom; her young daughter, Lily; and Elliot, a boy Evan’s age. Evan plans to haunt them—to scare them into leaving—but it turns out the house is already haunted! A pair of burning red eyes appears to Elliot, terrifying him as well as Evan and his dad. Judging this ghost to be the real intruder, Evan decides to help Elliot and his family. He follows Elliot to school and, while saving him from bullies, manages to forge a mental connection. Elliot can now see him! Evan has always wanted a brother, but will he be able to protect his adopted “fleshies” from the malevolent ghost that torments them? Dean writes in the first person and imbues Evan and his dad with distinct (and in the latter case, quite eccentric) personalities. The writing is clear and personable, narrated conversationally, and the tale moves quickly, deploying some nice inversions on the usual genre expectations. Dean’s dialogue is perhaps a relative weak point—at times it’s overly frenetic; plus, Lily seems very articulate for her age—but these are minor qualms and not really at odds with the book’s overall tone of excitability. Young readers should devour this cover to cover, reveling in the action while soaking up Dean’s underlying message of family and friendship.

A lively, inventive romp with plenty of spirit!

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2020

ISBN: 979-8-66-271773-2

Page Count: 159

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Readers will enjoy this sequel from a plot perspective and will learn how to play-act a trial, though they may not engage...


From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 2

This sequel to The Lemonade War (2007), picking up just a few days later, focuses on how the fourth graders take justice into their own hands after learning that the main suspect in the case of the missing lemonade-stand money now owns the latest in game-box technology.

Siblings Evan and Jessie (who skipped third grade because of her precocity) are sure Scott Spencer stole the $208 from Evan’s shorts and want revenge, especially as Scott’s new toy makes him the most popular kid in class, despite his personal shortcomings. Jessie’s solution is to orchestrate a full-blown trial by jury after school, while Evan prefers to challenge Scott in basketball. Neither channel proves satisfactory for the two protagonists (whose rational and emotional reactions are followed throughout the third-person narrative), though, ultimately, the matter is resolved. Set during the week of Yom Kippur, the story raises beginning questions of fairness, integrity, sin and atonement. Like John Grisham's Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer (2010), much of the book is taken up with introducing courtroom proceedings for a fourth-grade level of understanding. Chapter headings provide definitions  (“due diligence,” “circumstantial evidence,” etc.) and explanation cards/documents drawn by Jessie are interspersed.

Readers will enjoy this sequel from a plot perspective and will learn how to play-act a trial, though they may not engage with the characters enough to care about how the justice actually pans out. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-27967-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet!


From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 1

Ryan Hart is navigating the fourth grade and all its challenges with determination.

Her mom named her Ryan because it means “king,” and she wanted Ryan to feel powerful every time she heard her name; Ryan knows it means she is a leader. So when changes occur or disaster strikes, budding chef Ryan does her best to find the positive and “make sunshine.” When her dad is laid off from the post office, the family must make adjustments that include moving into a smaller house, selling their car, and changing how they shop for groceries. But Ryan gets to stay at Vernon Elementary, and her mom still finds a way to get her the ingredients she needs to practice new recipes. Her older brother, Ray, can be bossy, but he finds little ways to support her, especially when she is down—as does the whole family. Each episodic chapter confronts Ryan with a situation; intermittently funny, frustrating, and touching, they should be familiar and accessible to readers, as when Ryan fumbles her Easter speech despite careful practice. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and Watson continues to bring visibility to both Portland, Oregon, generally and its Black community specifically, making another wonderful contribution that allows Black readers to see themselves and all readers to find a character they can love.

Move over Ramona Quimby, Portland has another neighbor you have to meet! (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0056-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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