Suitable for children 9–11 years old, this continuation of a magical adventure is a pleasure to read.


A father leads his family hiking one evening to see an unforgettable sight: thousands of glowworms lighting up Finkleton Valley.

In The Magic of Finkleton, the first book in this series, Jack, Lizzy and Robert realize their family acquired not just a shop, but a shop with magical secrets, including the ability to control weather. After mastering the weather and reaping two years of perfect crops, two of the children find a room hidden beneath the library floor. Initially, it seems to be just a room with more books, but closer inspection reveals some peculiarities, such as a book that glows and one that feels cold to the touch. A rather ordinary book about memories seems harmless, but odd things start happening after Robert takes it with him upstairs to browse: A lightning strike causes a fire that burns the house of one of Finkleton’s leading citizens, and one of the children carelessly reveals the magical secrets found in Uncle Harry’s shop, encouraging a greedy outsider to pursue owning land in Finkleton. Robert believes he can right some of his past mistakes, but he accidentally breaks a clock which has the ability to move a person forward and backward through time. Meanwhile, the children work tirelessly to fix their town. In Hilton’s lively book, she creates a thriving town as the setting, using images children can easily imagine and appreciate. Miss Caroline, a resident devoted to helping the children, needs more detail and history, considering her central role. The story sharply focuses on the three children and their actions, which young readers will appreciate. At first glance, some of the magical items in this book may remind readers of Harry Potter—a clock that controls time and a book that can answer direct questions—but their use here is unique. The plot ambles along and presents situations that, beneath their supernatural surfaces, readers will likely find familiar.

Suitable for children 9–11 years old, this continuation of a magical adventure is a pleasure to read.

Pub Date: April 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-1469901084

Page Count: 228

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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Kurtz (I’m Sorry, Almira Ann, 1999, etc.) turns personal disaster into a universally affecting book about the 1997 flooding of the Red River in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Pictures and text catapult readers into the experience of loss when a river swells higher than anyone could have imagined and floods a town. Fleeing her home, the narrator leaves her cat behind and spends much of the flood’s aftermath missing her “motor-stomach Kiwi cat” as her family sleeps on the shelter’s hard cots; knows that “someday I’ll do the same for someone else” as she accepts provisions others have anonymously donated and delivered; sifts through the family’s sodden Christmas box to find mostly useless evidence of happy memories; and sees the unutterable mess and loss of all that is home, which will finally, ironically, be washed away by a new, life-saving dike. The beautifully articulate poems chronicle as well the loss of a good neighborhood, one where people save a cat because they can and it’s a good thing to do, just as they would, in happier times, have loaned a cup of sugar. Without sentimentality, the book speaks of loss as elemental as the force bringing it and of survival of equal magnitude. Brennan’s stylish oils, sometimes framed on a page, sometimes in full-bleed pages or spreads, capture and express this blend of specific universality. A book that belongs on every shelf in buildings up and down the country’s riverways. (Picture book/poetry. 5-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-689-82049-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.


A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Auch (Eggs Mark the Spot, 1996, etc.) offers up an audacious tale starring a unusual band of anthropomorphic creatures. Clara, a young farm duck about to experience her first winter, becomes insatiably curious when she hears the other barnyard animals discussing Christmas. Impatient and determined to solve the mystery surrounding this event, she sets out on her own, which leads to a series of funny encounters, mistaken identities, and even some danger. After a narrow escape from a hungry fox, Clara returns home to find the holiday festivities in full swing. Amidst cows and sheep in tutus, Clara learns that Christmas is about being surrounded by loved ones. Auch’s illustrations provide droll counterpoints to the text: Clara’s mountain at the top of the world is really a haystack in a field, the ferocious beast with large eyes is an abandoned farm vehicle, etc. Those who revel in Auch’s unique brand of quips, jests, and irreverent humor will not be disappointed, and newcomers will just laugh themselves silly. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-8234-1524-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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