A little talky toward the end, but a tasty chiller-thriller for all fans of macabre twists and Unfortunate Events....

SKARY CHILDRIN AND THE CAROUSEL OF SORROW

Delectably horrific doings in a cursed small town make reluctant allies of four bullied children.

The pall of fear and suspicion that hangs over Pernicious Valley in the wake of a magical storm 12 years before (“My grandfather says that’s why they cremate people now. ‘Cuz of the zombies”) is thickening even further as people have begun to mysteriously go missing. At the same time, a hungry little carousel has appeared in the local woods, a seemingly friendly candy man has opened a kiosk in town and a tall, sinister figure with obviously evil intentions has taken to slipping in and out of view. Gradually putting aside their personal miseries, a trio of despised students from dreadful Madame Gertrude’s School for Girls—Adelaide, keen of senses and wolfish of features; tough-talking, super strong Maggie; and shy Beatrice, talker to ghosts and daughter of itinerant celebrity morticians—join forces with Steffen, neglected son of a school cook, to winkle out the ugly connections between these goings-on. Creator of a series of Edward Gorey–like animated short films, Towell tucks violent tempests, maggoty slime, hideous transformations, nightmares, sudden terrors and like atmosphere-building elements into a rousingly melodramatic literary debut.

A little talky toward the end, but a tasty chiller-thriller for all fans of macabre twists and Unfortunate Events. (Melodrama. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-86859-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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Next to the exhilarating renditions of Rosemary Sutcliff (The Wanderings of Odysseus, 1996) and Geraldine McCaughrean...

THE ODYSSEY

An anemic retelling of the epic is paired to crabbed, ugly illustrations.

Breaking for occasional glimpses back to Penelope’s plight in Ithaca, Cross relates Odysseus’ travels in a linear narrative that begins with his departure for Troy but skips quickly over the war’s events to get to the sack of the city of the Cicones and events following. Along with being careless about continuity (Odysseus’ men are “mad with thirst” on one page and a few pages later swilling wine that they had all the time, for instance), the reteller’s language is inconsistent in tone. It is sprinkled with the requisite Homeric references to the “wine-dark sea” and Dawn’s rosy fingers but also breaks occasionally into a modern-sounding idiom: “ ‘What’s going on?’ Athene said, looking around at the rowdy suitors.” Packer decorates nearly every spread with either lacy figures silhouetted in black or gold or coarsely brushed paintings depicting crouching, contorted humans, gods and monsters with, generally, chalky skin, snaggled teeth, beer bellies or other disfigurements. The overall effect is grim, mannered and remote.

Next to the exhilarating renditions of Rosemary Sutcliff (The Wanderings of Odysseus, 1996) and Geraldine McCaughrean (Odysseus, 2004), this version makes bland reading, and the contorted art is, at best a poor match. (afterword, maps) (Illustrated classic. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4791-9

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Mary Downing Hahn fans will enjoy this just-right blend of history and spooky.

SCRITCH SCRATCH

A ghost haunting prompts a Chicago girl to investigate her local history.

Seventh grader Claire loves the predictability of science while her father relishes the paranormal, running a ghost-tour business in Chicago. Their worlds collide when Claire must help out her father at the last minute, and a ghost boy not only becomes an unwanted passenger on the bus, but follows her home and around the city. Currie’s visceral descriptions of the boy’s haunting—scratching behind walls, dripping water, icy air, scrawled notes, and more—exude creepy. Also scary to the middle schooler is losing Casley, her best friend and science fair partner, to Emily, the new girl in school who’s preoccupied with makeup. When Claire can no longer keep the ghost a secret, she recruits her older brother, along with Casley and Emily, to help her discover his identity. As she tries to apply the scientific method to the paranormal mystery, Claire realizes as well that there’s a human story behind every historical event. And as finding the ghost’s story becomes her mission, she researches a true Chicago disaster that killed more lives than the sinking of the Titanic. In the process, she also learns that jealousy hinders female solidarity. The historical details are fascinating, and the lessons Claire learns are lightly delivered. All characters, including the ghost boy, assume the white default.

Mary Downing Hahn fans will enjoy this just-right blend of history and spooky. (author’s note) (Paranormal suspense. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-0972-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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