This intricate and compelling fantasy will pull readers in.

THE MAGPIE'S LIBRARY

The magpie is always there, mysterious and manipulating—and perhaps manipulated.

It is at Grandpa’s house and also at the hospital where he doesn’t recognize Silva. It is at the library where Silva goes to find solace. There, the magpie’s magic door leads her to an inner library holding amazing books. The first book is Margaret’s tale. The words move off the page and physically pull Silva into the book, where she becomes Margaret, hearing her thoughts. Thus begins layer upon layer of magic and secrets involving books in which the characters all have their own magic doors. Silva feels comfort and a sense of removal from the tensions and sadness in her modern England. But ultimately she is aware that it is a trap. Silva must fight for her soul and the health and safety of those she loves, for they too are in thrall to the magic. The action is fast paced and constant, but readers are always privy to Silva’s feelings. She narrates her part of the story, but the magpie—or is it Maghew?—narrates his backstory, shown in different typeface, always controlled by the Whisper, the evil force behind it all. Blair releases information about the characters and clues almost grudgingly, deftly hinting at possible patterns and interrelations, while completely surprising readers with the final denouement. The cast is default white.

This intricate and compelling fantasy will pull readers in. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77086-554-9

Page Count: 184

Publisher: DCB

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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