Plot, schmot. Readers may be so charmed by Joel that they forgive the book’s flaws and wish him a miracle. (Historical...

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DREIDELS ON THE BRAIN

Joel is hoping for a miracle. Actually, the white Jewish boy is hoping for several.

He wishes his family could pay its bills rather than buying time by “accidentally” sending the telephone check to the water company. He wishes his father’s hands weren’t so gnarled by arthritis that it’s a struggle to pick up small objects. And he wishes no one knew his last name (which is too embarrassing to repeat here). Joel and his family are practically the only Jews in town, which makes him very nervous about the “Winter Holiday Assembly,” where they’re supposed to light the menorah in front of everyone. He suspects that—barring a miracle—the event will lead to further humiliation. (The events, sadly, are based on the author’s childhood in the 1970s.) Ben Izzy rarely mentions the race of the characters, though inferences can be made from their names. (Joel’s crush is named Amy O’Shea.) But the other characters are barely present. For chapters at a time, the only character is Joel, telling readers lengthy stories and shaggy dog jokes. He’s so entertaining that some people won’t notice when the plot stalls for pages on end, as plot is not the book’s strength. When the assembly turns into a train wreck, the scene is so over-the-top it hardly makes sense.

Plot, schmot. Readers may be so charmed by Joel that they forgive the book’s flaws and wish him a miracle. (Historical fiction. 10-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4097-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick.

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THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON

An elderly witch, a magical girl, a brave carpenter, a wise monster, a tiny dragon, paper birds, and a madwoman converge to thwart a magician who feeds on sorrow.

Every year Elders of the Protectorate leave a baby in the forest, warning everyone an evil Witch demands this sacrifice. In reality, every year, a kind witch named Xan rescues the babies and find families for them. One year Xan saves a baby girl with a crescent birthmark who accidentally feeds on moonlight and becomes “enmagicked.” Magic babies can be tricky, so Xan adopts little Luna herself and lovingly raises her, with help from an ancient swamp monster and a chatty, wee dragon. Luna’s magical powers emerge as her 13th birthday approaches. Meanwhile, Luna’s deranged real mother enters the forest to find her daughter. Simultaneously, a young carpenter from the Protectorate enters the forest to kill the Witch and end the sacrifices. Xan also enters the forest to rescue the next sacrificed child, and Luna, the monster, and the dragon enter the forest to protect Xan. In the dramatic denouement, a volcano erupts, the real villain attempts to destroy all, and love prevails. Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces. Luna has black eyes, curly, black hair, and “amber” skin.

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-567-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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