A tragically flawed premise results in a lamentable waste of excellent writing

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THE CASE OF THE GIRL IN GREY

From the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series , Vol. 2

More spurious adventures with those crime-solving minxes Ada Byron (Lovelace) and Mary Godwin (Shelley).

They are joined by their sidekicks from series opener The Case of the Missing Moonstone (2015), “Charlie” Dickens and Percy Bysshe “Peebs” Shelley, as well as two new characters, their younger sisters, impish Allegra and prim Jane, respectively. In this frolic, the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency is hired to investigate a young lady’s intended groom. High jinks ensue. As in the previous volume, Stratford plays so fast and loose with historical fact that readers familiar with it will wonder why he bothers. In addition to closing up the 18-year gap between Ada and Mary, he resurrects Allegra from the dead (she died at the age of 5) and erases the fact that Jane was the illegitimate Allegra’s mother. (All of this is revealed in the historical notes at the conclusion.) It’s a shame that Stratford has built his novel on such a heap of lies, as it’s not otherwise a bad book. The mystery itself is no more contrived than many middle-grade whodunits; the character development (independent as most of it is of actual history) is snappy; and at a sentence level, it can be downright lovely: a release of breath “lift[s Ada’s] stray brown bangs in a wave hello to the dust motes in the air.”

A tragically flawed premise results in a lamentable waste of excellent writing . (Historical mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-75444-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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A lighthearted mystery starring seriously smart kids.

THE AMBROSE DECEPTION

A mysterious scholarship contest launches this middle-grade mystery.

The action begins when three Chicago middle schoolers—Bondi Johnson, a black boy; Wilf Samson, a white boy; and Melissa Burris, a white girl—are selected to compete in the Kaplin/Baron scholarship contest. No one at the three students’ schools has heard of this scholarship, and even stranger, none of these students is known for exemplary academics. In fact, they are better known for scheming, daydreaming, and schmoozing. The scholarship rules appear straightforward: untangle the clues, provide a photo of each, and win $10,000. With these guidelines, a provided cellphone, a personal driver, and a no-strings-attached debit card, each student is ready to tackle the task. Bondi attacks his clues with diligence; Melissa, though suspicious, enjoys the chase; Wilf would rather cross items off his bucket list than solve the riddles. When the hunt for clues draws to an end, Bondi, Melissa, and Wilf discover there is another mystery surrounding this scholarship and the money, leading them to band together to unravel the remaining clues and unearth the truth before the $10,000 slips out of their hands. In the tradition of The Westing Game or Chasing Vermeer, this is a plot-driven brainteaser centered on Chicago landmarks and Chicago history. The twists and turns are well-paced and believable, and transcripts of texts, emails, and letters within the chapters add dimension to the strong cast of secondary characters.

A lighthearted mystery starring seriously smart kids. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4847-8838-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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