A poignant coming-of-age tale with a compelling mystery at its center.


In this debut middle-grade novel, a girl whose mother has left her makes a life-changing new friend.

It’s nearly a year since Melanie Harper’s mother disappeared. With her father, Melanie moved from Grayson to Fairview, where, in 1980, she’s now in the fifth grade at Buckminster Experimental School. She doesn’t fit in with most other kids and is a target for mean girls like Karen Wagner, who’s always trying to get a look at Melanie’s secret journal. Melanie’s artist father is preoccupied with his work, and she’s often lonely. Things change when a new girl suddenly appears in Melanie’s life. She asks Melanie to call her Sabrina, after the character Sabrina Duncan on Charlie’s Angels. Sabrina is “just about the ideal friend,” and through her encouragement, Melanie gains more social confidence. She stands up to Karen and begins a tentative friendship with Leanne, a girl in the bully’s circle who admires her: “You are different, but you’re just like yourself, when everyone is trying not to be.” Melanie even wins the role of Peter Pan in the school play, hoping that her mother—to whom she’s been sending coded postcards—will attend. When Karen gets hold of the secret journal, things fall apart, bringing Melanie to important new realizations. In her novel, Mathison provides an appealing hero who’s thoughtful, perceptive, and richly imaginative, able to perceive what others don’t: “There’s a door in the world, right there for anyone to see...standing open the whole time and a lifetime of mystery beyond.” Melanie’s emotions are affecting and compassionately described but not histrionic. The secret of her mother’s disappearance—and Sabrina’s arrival—embodies a creative psychological response to sorrow that provides surprises, though some readers may guess them before the end.

A poignant coming-of-age tale with a compelling mystery at its center.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73500-372-6

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Starr Creek Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2020

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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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Longing—for connection, for family, for a voice—roars to life with just a touch of magic.

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A young girl bargaining for the health of her grandmother discovers both her family’s past and the strength of her own voice.

For many years, Lily’s Korean grandmother, Halmoni, has shared her Asian wisdom and healing powers with her predominantly White community. When Lily, her sister, Sam—both biracial, Korean and White—and their widowed mom move in with Halmoni to be close with her as she ages, Lily begins to see a magical tiger. What were previously bedtime stories become dangerously prophetic, as Lily begins to piece together fact from fiction. There is no need for prior knowledge of Korean folktales, although a traditional Korean myth propels the story forward. From the tiger, Lily learns that Halmoni has bottled up the hard stories of her past to keep sadness at bay. Lily makes a deal with the tiger to heal her grandmother by releasing those stories. What she comes to realize is that healing doesn’t mean health and that Halmoni is not the only one in need of the power of storytelling. Interesting supporting characters are fully developed but used sparingly to keep the focus on the simple yet suspenseful plot. Keller infuses this tale, which explores both the end of life and coming-of-age, with a sensitive examination of immigration issues and the complexity of home. It is at one and the same time completely American and thoroughly informed by Korean culture.

Longing—for connection, for family, for a voice—roars to life with just a touch of magic. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1570-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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