A heck of a good read about the bright side of some durn bad luck

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BONE HOLLOW

An orphaned kid with a biography of misfortune must die to see that home and happiness live in the strangest places.

Gabe is no stranger to death. His parents are dead. His grandfather is dead. And after an unfortunate encounter with a weather vane, so is he. He thinks it’s all a misunderstanding until his uncaring caretaker turns him—and the gaping hole in his abdomen—away. The town echoes her revulsion by revolting against walking-dead Gabe with rocks, fists, and angry cries. His solace in his new, mysterious existence is his unflappably loyal dog and a strange girl (initially resembling an old friend named Niko) who rescues him from the mob. Not-Niko eventually reveals herself as Wynne, a long-dead girl who inherited the role of Death and wants to hand Gabe the baton. It’s a fate Gabe refuses—no matter how much he finds himself enjoying the company of Death. Set in the rural South, the novel has syrup-soaked, rich imagery that’s a sensory delight. Gabe’s voice is distinct, and his countrified vernacular layers heart and humor onto a sensitive premise. And the evolution of his conflict—embracing friendship with Wynne while avoiding the responsibility—reinforces the humanity amid the magic. Gabe is white, as is most of the community. Niko is Bangladeshi (represented only in memory), and Wynne is black; racism is not a driving plot point, but its mention underscores ever present small-minded reality.

A heck of a good read about the bright side of some durn bad luck . (Paranormal adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-04274-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012) will appreciate this feel-good story of friendship and unconventional smarts.

FISH IN A TREE

Hunt draws a portrait of dyslexia and getting along.

Ally Nickerson, who’s passed through seven schools in seven years, maintains a Sketchbook of Impossible Things. A snowman in a furnace factory is more plausible than imagining herself doing something right—like reading. She doesn't know why, but letters dance and give her headaches. Her acting out to disguise her difficulty causes headaches for her teachers, who, oddly, never consider dyslexia, even though each notices signs like inconsistent spellings of the same word. Ally's confusion is poignant when misunderstandings like an unintentional sympathy card for a pregnant teacher make her good intentions backfire, and readers will sympathize as she copes with the class "mean girls." When a creative new teacher, Mr. Daniels, steps in, the plot turns more uplifting but also metaphor-heavy; a coin with a valuable flaw, cupcakes with hidden letters, mystery boxes and references to the Island of Misfit Toys somewhat belabor the messages that things aren't always what they seem and everyone is smart in their own ways. Despite emphasis on "thinking outside the box," characters are occasionally stereotypical—a snob, a brainiac, an unorthodox teacher—but Ally's new friendships are satisfying, as are the recognition of her dyslexia and her renewed determination to read.

Fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012) will appreciate this feel-good story of friendship and unconventional smarts. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-16259-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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