Snicket-lite without the clever wordplay, it’s a ghoulish though not gross thriller.


Is it really paranoia if the monsters turn out to be real?

Twelve-year-old Charlie Oughtt’s overactive imagination can supply a frightening or deadly outcome to any situation. His younger sister, Georgie, however, is ready for anything. When children in their gaslit Victorian neighborhood begin to vanish, their widowed mother begins acting strangely and talking of sending them to stay with their grandmother…but both their grandmothers are dead. No matter; off they go. Charlie naturally fears the worst, but Grandmother Opal and Grandmother Pearl’s farm and what lurks beneath it make Charlie’s most terrifying nightmares look like pleasant daydreams. The grandmothers (it turns out there are many of them) separate the children and assign strange tasks and punishments. Then Georgie vanishes…and when Charlie goes looking, he uncovers a terrifying plot. Can Charlie summon the inner courage to save Georgie and the other missing children from a dream-devouring menace that threatens the whole world? Following Skary Childrin and the Carousel of Sorrow (2011), Towell’s sophomore effort is a slow-ish, Gothic-y adventure. The main characters are stock, but the surrounding cast of monsters is satisfyingly creepy, and they are really the point anyway. The eerie line drawings have the effect of a high school literary magazine, but they add to the unsettling atmosphere.

Snicket-lite without the clever wordplay, it’s a ghoulish though not gross thriller. (Horror. 8-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-375-86860-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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The second installment in this spirited series is a hit.


From the Ryan Hart series , Vol. 2

A new baby coming means Ryan has lots of opportunities to grow love.

Ryan has so much to look forward to this summer—she is going to be a big sister, and she finally gets to go to church camp! But new adventures bring challenges, too. Ryan feels like the baby is taking forever to arrive, and with Mom on bed rest, she isn’t able to participate in the family’s typical summer activities. Ryan’s Dad is still working the late shift, which means he gets home and goes to bed when she and her older brother, Ray, are waking up, so their quality daddy-daughter time is limited to one day a week. When the time for camp finally arrives, Ryan is so worried about bugs, ghosts, and sharing a cabin that she wonders if she should go at all. Watson’s heroine is smart and courageous, bringing her optimistic attitude to any challenge she faces. Hard topics like family finances and complex relationships with friends are discussed in an age-appropriate way. Watson continues to excel at crafting a sense of place; she transports readers to Portland, Oregon, with an attention to detail that can only come from someone who has loved that city. Ryan, her family, and friends are Black, and occasional illustrations by Mata spotlight their joy and make this book shine.

The second installment in this spirited series is a hit. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0058-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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A moving exploration of the places we come from and the people who shape us—not to be missed.


On a birthday trip to New York City, a girl learns about her roots, Harlem, and how to stay true to herself.

Eleven-year-old sneakerhead Amara is struggling to feel seen and heard. A new baby sister is on the way, her mom still wants to put her in dresses, and that birthday trip from the Portland, Oregon, suburbs to New York City that she so desperately wants feels out of reach. When Amara gets a family-history assignment, she is finally able to convince her mom to say yes to the trip, since it will allow Amara to meet her dad’s side of the family in person. In addition to the school project, her mom gives Amara a secret mission: get her dad and grandpa to spend time alone together to repair old wounds. Harlem proves unlike any place Amara has ever been, and as she explores where her father grew up she experiences black history on every street. Watson is a master at character development, with New York City and especially Harlem playing central roles. Through her all-black cast she seamlessly explores issues of identity, self, and family acceptance. Although the ending feels rushed, with no resolution between Amara and her mom, Amara’s concluding poem is powerful.

A moving exploration of the places we come from and the people who shape us—not to be missed. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68119-108-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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