The therapeutic message overwhelms this well-meant debut.

READ REVIEW

THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE

A fantasy exploration of grief so overwhelming that it threatens to engulf its sufferer.

After their mother’s death, sadness threatens to swallow up Charlie Price's little sister, Imogen, and make her vanish the way his best friend, Frank Shin, did a few months earlier. Can mathlete Charlie’s logical thinking help save them both? Bereft and angry, Imogen opens a way to an alternate world where their mother is alive and ready to share their favorite memories. The catch is that Not-Mom feeds on these memories, taking them permanently. When the grieving person has no more memories to share, he or she becomes stuck in the alternate world—like Frank, who lost his grandmother. Luckily, Charlie pairs up with Elliott, a friend from the school grief group whose twin brother died a year earlier, to intervene. The two, along with a helpful dog, not only rescue Imogen and Frank, they vanquish the Echoes, the predatory reflections of the deceased. This ultimately hopeful story is narrated in the third person but in Charlie’s 12-year-old, often naïve (and ungrammatical) voice; it’s an oddly distancing effect, as if he, too, has lost his personhood. The tale is also full of sensible suggestions, mostly from the school counselor. These might be helpful for readers facing their own losses, but the fantasy world isn’t sturdy enough to support the adventure for most readers.

The therapeutic message overwhelms this well-meant debut. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-238010-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read.

ALI CROSS

The prolific king of the beach read is back with an intergenerational mystery for the 9-to-12-year-old set.

Ali Cross, the son of Patterson’s most famous creation, African American homicide detective Alex Cross, is “starting to think the worst might have happened” to his mixed-race friend Gabriel “Gabe” Qualls, who disappeared on Dec. 21 and hasn’t been heard from as of Christmas Eve, when the book opens. Ali offers an impromptu prayer for Gabe at the pre-holiday service at his all-black church as well as an impromptu press conference outside of it as journalists and paparazzi confront Alex about his alleged coma-inducing assault of a murder suspect’s father. Then someone robs the Crosses’ home that night along with four other homes; the Crosses’ Christmas gifts are stolen. Ali, obsessed with finding Gabe and feeling that these events will distract his dad and the police from searching for him, starts his own investigation—complete with looking at some contraband footage of Gabe’s unusually loaded backpack obtained by Ali’s stepmother, also a cop—and questioning his school and gaming pals, a diverse group. Writing in Ali’s voice with occasional cutaways to third-person chapters that follow Alex, Patterson sprinkles the narrative with pop-culture references even as he takes readers through the detective process.

Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-53041-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Warm, delicious and filling.

PIE

What do you get when you take some scrumptious pie recipes, stir in a mix-up of a mystery involving an overweight cat and a legacy, then add a sly satirical nod to the Newbery Medal? This irresistible confection.  

In 1955, 10-year-old Alice’s beloved Aunt Polly, the peerless “Pie Queen of Ipswitch,” who has always given away the extraordinary products of her oven simply because it makes her happy, dies. She bequeaths her incomparable piecrust recipe to Lardo, her cat—or does she?—and leaves Lardo to Alice. Thus the stage is set for a rich, layered and funny tale about friendship, family relationships and doing what’s right. The characters are wonderfully drawn. While doing her best to carry on Aunt Polly’s legacy, trying to figure out how to wrest the secret from the cat, dealing with a nefarious woman poking around town and learning about the renowned “Blueberry Medal,” which everyone in town is trying to win, Alice draws closer to her mom, a resolution Aunt Polly would have cherished. Alice and her family eventually discover the solution to the mystery in a plot twist that is both comical and plausible. An epilogue, set in 1995, is deeply poignant and gratifying. In addition to the beautifully wrought story, readers will savor and want to attempt the 14 recipes, each of which precedes a chapter.

Warm, delicious and filling.   (recipes, pie credits) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-545-27011-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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