Lyrical and emotionally complex, this coming-of-age tale explores “all the giant things and all the great things” about...


Foxlee’s (A Most Magical Girl, 2016, etc.) latest is true to its title.

Lenny Spink’s little brother, Davey, isn’t little. At 5 ½, he’s taller than Lenny, a third-grader—and he won’t stop growing. Her intuitive mother, “made almost entirely out of worries and magic” since her father abandoned them, is rapidly unraveling into pure worry. But when their mother wins them a set of Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia, the siblings build fantastic futures as they learn about farting beetles, golden eagles, and Canada’s Great Bear Lake. From 1974 to 1977, their library grows, and Davey’s rare tumors worsen. Almost universally adored—and unbelievably cheerful through growing pains, excruciating headaches, and blindness—Davey is primarily a plot device, prompting others’ growth and kindness. The growing pains at the book’s heart are Lenny’s. Prickly, perceptive, and sympathetic, she eloquently narrates her conflicted longing for her father and the metamorphoses in her close bond with Davey. Lenny’s anger and “shame of being ashamed” of Davey will resonate with siblings of sick kids, and the rocky but fierce love between Lenny and her mother is heartening. Eclectic secondary characters provide support, including a boy with a birthmark and a stutter; Lenny’s convention-defying best friend; and a doting Hungarian babysitter. Lenny and her family and friends are white; her Ohio neighborhood is somewhat diverse.

Lyrical and emotionally complex, this coming-of-age tale explores “all the giant things and all the great things” about family and growing up—unfortunately, it’s done via the “angelic sick kid” trope. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7012-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A richly atmospheric page-turner—readers will eagerly anticipate the forthcoming sequel.


Young Seren Rhys stands on the cusp of a new life. Unfortunately for her, the train to her new life is late.

Following the death of her aunt, who saved her from her 12-year stay at the orphanage, she receives word that her godfather, Capt. Arthur Jones, will take her in. Seren spends her wait dreaming of the Jones family and their surely bustling, welcoming manor, Plas-y-Fran in Wales. An encounter with a mysterious man and his more mysterious wrapped parcel (containing the eponymous mechanical bird) leaves Seren reeling, and the mysteries multiply when she arrives at Plas-y-Fran. The place is shuttered and cold, nearly deserted but for a few fearful, oppressively unforthcoming servants. The captain and his wife are away; of their young son, Tomos, there is neither sign nor sound. With the Crow as her only, if reluctant, ally, Seren soon finds herself enmeshed in mayhem and magic that may prove lethal. In her characteristic style, Fisher crafts an elaborate fantasy from deceptively simple language. Seren is a sharp, saucy narrator whose constant puzzlement at others’ consternation over her impertinence provides running amusement. Supporting characters are fascinating if ambiguous players, not so much poorly drawn as poorly revealed, perhaps casualties of the quick pace. The deadened manor, however, provides the perfect backdrop for preternatural forces. Characters are presumed white.

A richly atmospheric page-turner—readers will eagerly anticipate the forthcoming sequel. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1491-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Warm, delicious and filling.


What do you get when you take some scrumptious pie recipes, stir in a mix-up of a mystery involving an overweight cat and a legacy, then add a sly satirical nod to the Newbery Medal? This irresistible confection.  

In 1955, 10-year-old Alice’s beloved Aunt Polly, the peerless “Pie Queen of Ipswitch,” who has always given away the extraordinary products of her oven simply because it makes her happy, dies. She bequeaths her incomparable piecrust recipe to Lardo, her cat—or does she?—and leaves Lardo to Alice. Thus the stage is set for a rich, layered and funny tale about friendship, family relationships and doing what’s right. The characters are wonderfully drawn. While doing her best to carry on Aunt Polly’s legacy, trying to figure out how to wrest the secret from the cat, dealing with a nefarious woman poking around town and learning about the renowned “Blueberry Medal,” which everyone in town is trying to win, Alice draws closer to her mom, a resolution Aunt Polly would have cherished. Alice and her family eventually discover the solution to the mystery in a plot twist that is both comical and plausible. An epilogue, set in 1995, is deeply poignant and gratifying. In addition to the beautifully wrought story, readers will savor and want to attempt the 14 recipes, each of which precedes a chapter.

Warm, delicious and filling.   (recipes, pie credits) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-545-27011-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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