A tongue-in-cheek romp with currently topical overtones.



Nine (or thereabouts) Depression-era Naughty Listers set out to petition Santa for toys rather than coal in their stockings.

It all begins when the “Know-It-All,” aka Peter Czapylynsky, finds a partially burned page from Santa’s Naughty List in his fireplace on Christmas morning and, outraged to have gotten only coal, reaches out to others on the list with a scheme to see justice done. According to archetypically unreliable narrator Luigi Curidi, a self-described “poor and dirty Italian kid,” the quarrelsome questers (almost never exactly nine in number) trade in their given names for appropriate nicknames such as the “Hooligan” and the “Thief”—Luigi opts for the “Liar.” Bankrolled by the rich but thoroughly spoiled “Brat,” they travel north from Pittsburgh by train, dog sled, and finally mail boat—arriving after many adventures at a certain unmapped island in Baffin Bay to discover that the latest in a line of elected Santas has autocratically turned the Toy Factory into a smoke-belching sweatshop. Worse lies in store, though, as first a devastating fire and then the arrival of devious bootlegger Mummy Rummy spell a future producing not toys but liquor and firearms for the American mob. Can the Nine (or so) find a way to beat the baddies, unionize the elvish workers, and save Christmas? With help from a lively opening rogues’ gallery by Mock, Marciano creates a cast of ragamuffins diverse in race, gender, ethnic background, social class, and temperament.

A tongue-in-cheek romp with currently topical overtones. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-99784-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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


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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Clever as ever—if slow off the mark—and positively laden with tics, quirks, and puns.


From the Mysterious Benedict Society series , Vol. 4

When deadly minions of archvillain Ledroptha Curtain escape from prison, the talented young protégés of his twin brother, Nicholas Benedict, reunite for a new round of desperate ploys and ingenious trickery.

Stewart sets the reunion of cerebral Reynie Muldoon Perumal, hypercapable Kate Wetherall, shy scientific genius George “Sticky” Washington, and spectacularly sullen telepath Constance Contraire a few years after the previous episode, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma (2009). Providing relief from the quartet’s continual internecine squabbling and self-analysis, he trucks in Tai Li, a grubby, precociously verbal 5-year-old orphan who also happens to be telepathic. (Just to even the playing field a bit, the bad guys get a telepath too.) Series fans will know to be patient in wading through all the angst, arguments, and flurries of significant nose-tapping (occasionally in unison), for when the main action does at long last get under way—the five don’t even set out from Mr. Benedict’s mansion together until more than halfway through—the Society returns to Nomansan Island (get it?), the site of their first mission, for chases, narrow squeaks, hastily revised stratagems, and heroic exploits that culminate in a characteristically byzantine whirl of climactic twists, triumphs, and revelations. Except for brown-skinned George and olive-complected, presumably Asian-descended Tai, the central cast defaults to white; Reynie’s adoptive mother is South Asian.

Clever as ever—if slow off the mark—and positively laden with tics, quirks, and puns. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-45264-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Megan Tingley/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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