Tasty, bite-sized bizarreness for brave preteens.



A collection of curious incidents—13, naturally—for unsuspecting readers.

A friend mysteriously vanishes. A kid runs into the devil on the way to school. The figures on a street sign change places. A stain on the school cafeteria’s floor is more than just a stain—it has a mouth. A straight-laced teacher gets a creative form of discipline for her “problematic” classroom-management style. Paper-towel dispensers produce ominous messages. Someone’s missing marker is used to make art that brings to life a new invasive species. Even the shadows get bad ideas. For everything, there’s a price or a consequence. Which kids can beat the odds and figure out a way for their lives to go back to normal? Or, is normal the real myth in this wondrously eerie world? Allen’s debut is mostly plot-focused, a quick (but not too quick) relay race from story to story—the longest of which spans 15 pages. Mostly creepy instead of bone-chillingly terrifying, the collection’s overall tone is more Twilight Zone than Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark. It’s also a textbook example of how horror contextualizes social anxieties, particularly those relevant to school-aged youth. Coleman mixes hand lettering with scratchy, sketchy linework to create single- or double-page black-and-white illustrations that accentuate each story. With a lack of racial descriptors, the cast presumes a white default.

Tasty, bite-sized bizarreness for brave preteens. (Horror. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4366-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Full of thrills and scares.


Evelyn Von Rathe is on a twisted, spooky hunt for her aunt, who has been taken into a supernatural maze by an evil creature called The Clackity.

Blight Harbor is one of the most haunted towns in America, and 12-year-old Evie’s Aunt Desdemona, who has cared for her since her parents died, is well versed on the otherworldly. However, when Aunt Des goes to investigate the town’s abandoned abattoir, she disappears. Despite its being off-limits, Evie goes in after her and makes a bargain with The Clackity, a demented, sharp-toothed creature: She will find her aunt and in return, fetch him the ghost of serial killer John Jeffrey Pope, who famously used the slaughterhouse for killing humans in the early 20th century. What awaits Evie as she crosses into the other world are seven dangerous, cursed, booby-trapped houses that she must navigate in order to save Aunt Des. Senf’s worldbuilding is fantastical and compelling, the scares hair-raising. Evie is a capable, vulnerable, brave, and anxious hero; she’s real. She hangs tough, with a magic sparrow companion serving as a sidekick, savior, and coach. While Senf opens the book with a lot of exposition, the story really settles in as Evie begins her quest, and the skilled storytelling will keep readers spellbound and spooked. Cáceres’ eerie black-and-white illustrations enhance the mood and atmosphere. Main characters are cued as White.

Full of thrills and scares. (Horror. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 28, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66590-267-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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Pratchett-like worldbuilding centers immigrant kids in a story filled with culture, humor, and heart.


At home in Haiti, 10-year-old Gabrielle Marie Jean loves the rain, scary stories, beating the boys in mango-eating contests, and her family, most of all.

When her parents’ paperwork issues mean she must immigrate to the United States alone, every heavenly thing she believes about America can’t outweigh the sense of dread she feels in leaving everything she knows behind. A preternaturally sensitive child, Gabrielle feels responsible for not only her own success, but her whole family’s, so the stakes of moving in with her uncle, aunt, and cousins in Brooklyn are high—even before Lady Lydia, a witch, tries to steal her essence. Lydia makes her an offer she can’t refuse: achieving assimilation. Arnold skillfully fuses distinct immigrant experiences with the supernatural to express a universally felt desire for belonging. Gabrielle desperately wants to fit in despite the xenophobia she experiences every day and despite making new, accepting friends in Mexican American Carmen and Rocky the talking rat-rabbit. But in trying to change herself, Gabrielle risks giving Lydia the power to conquer Brooklyn. Gabrielle is a charming narrator, and of course, good guy (girl) magic wins out in the end, but the threat to immigrant lives and identities is presented poignantly nonetheless in this richly imaginative origin story of one Haitian American girl that offers a fantastical take on immigrant narratives.

Pratchett-like worldbuilding centers immigrant kids in a story filled with culture, humor, and heart. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-27275-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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