Malone’s boisterous whirl of capers, pranks, and mystery deftly contains Meghan’s journey of self-discovery.

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THE SLEEPOVER

Friends Meghan, Anna Marie, and Paige are eager to have a memorable sleepover.

For 12-year-old Meghan, celebrating her best friend’s 13th birthday is the perfect opportunity for her first stay-the-whole-night sleepover. Despite the unexpected arrival of Anna Marie’s quirky, almost-stepsister Veronica and the interference of Anna Marie’s younger brother, the friends forge on. However, Veronica’s unusual birthday present—a session with a hypnotist—dramatically alters their evening. Malone quickly segues from the girls’ hypnosis session with Madame Mesmer to the following morning, when Meghan awakens without any recollection of the rest of the evening—and Anna Marie is gone. Meghan is determined to unravel the mystery of her missing memories. Told from Meghan’s perspective, Malone’s tale maintains a swift pace as the girls frantically try to figure out what’s happened. As the group becomes embroiled in mischief and mishaps, the initially very cautious Meghan undergoes a subtle transformation. In the chaotic aftermath of the sleepover, she does many things she would never have attempted previously. Reveling in this bolder, slightly braver aspect of her personality, she stands her ground and closely collaborates with her crush, Jake. With inventive plot twists and surprise revelations, Malone resolves the crisis, neatly providing explanations for the strange turn of events. Meghan and Paige are white; despite Anna Marie’s Latino last name, she demonstrates no cultural specificity.

Malone’s boisterous whirl of capers, pranks, and mystery deftly contains Meghan’s journey of self-discovery. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5261-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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