Lots of creepiness, memorable characters, a worthy message, Arrasmith’s atmospheric drawings and touches of humor amid the...

THE NIGHT GARDENER

Replete with engaging figurative language and literary allusions to works ranging from the Bible to Paradise Lost, Auxier’s creepy Victorian ghost story is an allegory on greed and the power of stories.

Fourteen-year-old Molly and her younger brother, Kip, orphans fleeing the Irish famine, seek work in England. The destitute siblings become servants at the Windsor estate, at the center of which is a decrepit house entwined with a huge and sinister tree. Although warned that this place contains something ominous that changes people, they are unprepared for the evil they encounter. The master, mistress and their two children grow pale and thin; their eyes and hair blacken. Entering the forbidden room at the top of the stairs, Molly finds a knothole in the tree—a knothole that produces whatever one wishes for (money, jewels, sweets). The price is a piece of the petitioner’s soul. Muddy footprints and dead leaves in the house attest to an evil nocturnal visitor, the titular Night Gardener, who wipes the sweat of fear from their nightmare-ridden brows to water the tree. In a heart-stopping climax, Molly and Kip attempt to stop this specter and the ancient curse.

Lots of creepiness, memorable characters, a worthy message, Arrasmith’s atmospheric drawings and touches of humor amid the horror make this cautionary tale one readers will not soon forget. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4197-1144-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when...

ASHES TO ASHEVILLE

Two sisters make an unauthorized expedition to their former hometown and in the process bring together the two parts of their divided family.

Dooley packs plenty of emotion into this eventful road trip, which takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. Twelve-year-old Ophelia, nicknamed Fella, and her 16-year-old sister, Zoey Grace, aka Zany, are the daughters of a lesbian couple, Shannon and Lacy, who could not legally marry. The two white girls squabble and share memories as they travel from West Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, where Zany is determined to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in accordance with her wishes. The year is 2004, before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and the girls have been separated by hostile, antediluvian custodial laws. Fella’s present-tense narration paints pictures not just of the difficulties they face on the trip (a snowstorm, car trouble, and an unlikely thief among them), but also of their lives before Mama Lacy’s illness and of the ways that things have changed since then. Breathless and engaging, Fella’s distinctive voice is convincingly childlike. The conversations she has with her sister, as well as her insights about their relationship, likewise ring true. While the girls face serious issues, amusing details and the caring adults in their lives keep the tone relatively light.

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when Fella’s family figures out how to come together in a new way . (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16504-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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