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From the Sinister Summer series , Vol. 2

Another eerie escapade in a delightfully quirky series.

Twins Alexander and Theo, 12, speculate about what awaits them—good or bat—at the Sanguine Spa in the Little Transylvanian Mountains.

Aunt Saffronia drops them off along with 16-year-old sister Wil and vague directions to look closer and find what was lost. When she left them at a water park the previous week, Aunt Saffronia issued equally imprecise instructions that led them to root out a couple of villains and be gifted an antique brass stopwatch. They’re starting to suspect each destination is part of a bigger scavenger hunt, but they have more questions than answers. Who is Aunt Saffronia? Where are their parents? It’s all quick-moving, tongue-in-cheek, gothic fun. The banter between Alexander and Theo sparks, highlighting the differences in their personalities: Alexander is cautious; Theo charges ahead. Wil is so engaged in her cellphone she seems unaware of the spa hostess yelling at the ceiling, the spa guests laid out on tables like corpses, and the cave full of bats. Meanwhile, Alexander and Theo suspect the spa is really a vampire hotel. Weirder still, a villain from the water park arrives and steals something. Children should have read Wretched Waterpark (2022) to fully appreciate and follow the entertaining story threads, characters, and clues about the larger puzzle. Next stop: summer camp!

Another eerie escapade in a delightfully quirky series. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-37908-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022

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From the One and Onlys series , Vol. 1

Delightful fun for budding mystery fans.

Only children, rejoice! A cozy mystery just for you! (People with siblings will probably enjoy it too.)

Debut novelist Cornett introduces the One and Onlys, a trio of mystery-solving only kids: Gloria Longshanks “Shanks” Hill, Alexander “Peephole” Calloway, and narrator Paul (alas, no nickname) Marconi. The trio has a knack for finding and solving low-level mysteries, but they come up against a true head-scratcher when the yard of a resident of their small town is covered in rubber ducks overnight. Working ahead of Officer Portnoy, who’s a little on the slow side, can Paul, Shanks, and Peephole solve the mystery? Cornett has a lot of fun with this adventure, dropping additional side mysteries, a subplot about small businesses, big corporations, and economics, and a town’s love of bratwurst into the mix. Most importantly, he plays fair with the clues throughout, allowing astute readers to potentially solve the case ahead of the trio. The tone and mystery are perfect for younger readers who want to test their detective skills but are put off by anything scary or gory. The pacing would serve well for chapter-by-chapter read-alouds. If there are any quibbles, it’s the lack of diversity of the cast, as it defaults white. Diversity exists in small towns, and this one is crying out for more. Hopefully a sequel will introduce additional faces.

Delightful fun for budding mystery fans. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-3003-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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From the Spy School series , Vol. 3

Will satisfy fans but could be better.

Young CIA agent-in-training Benjamin Ripley switches sides—or is he just going undercover?—in this graphic version of the third Spy School caper.

Sticking to the plot of the 2015 original, this episode sees the talented math whiz recruited by nefarious organization SPYDER after being (unjustly, he fumes) kicked out of the CIA’s academy. While training in a hidden school for evildoers with other prospective villains, including Ashley Sparks, a gushy former competitive gymnast with a fondness for portmanteau words (sweet + awesome = swawesome), Ben gets wind of a dastardly scheme to make billions on government construction projects. Hot if inept pursuit by both rival espionage agencies takes Ben from a secret underground command center to the top of the Statue of Liberty. But while the action has a rapid flow in the art (Sarkar is good at portraying fights, high-speed chases, and explosions), several characters are drawn with generic features and such a limited range of expressions that even with help from the cast gallery, it’s hard to tell them apart easily. Still, along with coming through in the suspenseful climax—thanks to clever deductions and quick thinking—by the end, Ben has also achieved a long-sought breakthrough with Erica Hale (code name “Ice Queen”), a superbly omnicompetent schoolmate who has his heart as well as his back. The cast largely presents white.

Will satisfy fans but could be better. (Graphic thriller. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781665931946

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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