Agatha is distinctive, funny, and engaging.

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AGATHA PARROT AND THE HEART OF MUD

From the Agatha Parrot series

Agatha Parrot is a sprightly kind of girl.

When her older brother, James, receives an email from a cousin he barely knows that ends, “Love from Bella,” he can’t figure out how to answer. Love from a girl? Agatha steps in and solves the problem, fashioning a response that could embarrass James—if he knew about it. More emails follow, ramping up to a notable level of romantic silliness. Bella turns out to be a useful source of words to help Agatha’s friends try to make it onto the spelling team at school, although none of them seem to recognize, at first, that having advance access to the test words is wrong. When they finally make the connection, they’re quick to change their behavior, although telling a fib along the way doesn’t seem to be a problem for them. Frizzy-haired, exuberant, white Agatha relates her large-print, double-spaced tale with ample good humor and an occasional tinge of genial sarcasm that adds a saucy (and realistic) dimension to her character. An illustration of her gang reveals that one of the girls, Bianca, has dark skin, and another, Ivy, may be Asian, but there is nothing in the text to confirm their racial identities. The simple prose, lively illustrations, and upbeat plot combine to make this an appealing choice for newly independent readers.

Agatha is distinctive, funny, and engaging. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-50876-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Wholesome, uncomplicated fare for the younger Matt Christopher crowd.

THE MISSING BASEBALL

From the Zach and Zoe Mysteries series , Vol. 1

Lupica kicks off a new series starring a pair of 8-year-old twins who solve sports-themed mysteries.

Even the pleasures of competing in various events during his school’s Spirit Week dim a smidge for Zach Walker when the prized autographed baseball he brings to his third-grade class for show and tell vanishes. Happily, his bookish but equally sports-loving sister, Zoe, is on the case, and by the time of the climactic baseball game at week’s end, she has pieced together clues and deductions that lead to the lost treasure—which had not been stolen but batted through an open window by the teacher’s cat and stashed in a storage shed by the custodian. In the co-published sequel, The Half-Court Hero, the equally innocuous conundrum hangs on the identity of the mysterious “guardian angel” who is fixing up a run-down playground basketball court. Along with plenty of suspenseful sports action, the author highlights in both tales the values of fair play, teamwork, and doing the “right thing.” The Walker family presents white, but in both the narrative and Danger’s appropriately bland (if inappropriately static) illustrations, the supporting cast shows some racial and ethnic diversity.

Wholesome, uncomplicated fare for the younger Matt Christopher crowd. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-425-28936-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

AFTER ALL I'VE DONE

A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Plenty of baseball action, but the paint-by-numbers plot is just a vehicle for equally standard-issue advice. .

THE CONTRACT

For his eponymous imprint, the New York Yankees star leads off with a self-referential tale of Little League triumphs.

In the first of a projected 10 episodes based on the same number of “Life Lessons” espoused by the lead author’s Turn 2 Foundation, third-grader Derek turns in an essay announcing that his dream is to play shortstop for the New York Yankees (No. 1 on the Turn 2 list: “Set your goals high”). His parents take him seriously enough not only to present him with a “contract” that promises rewards for behaviors like working hard and avoiding alcohol and drugs, but also to put a flea in the ear of his teacher after she gives him a B-minus on the essay for being unrealistic. Derek then goes on to pull up his math grade. He also proceeds to pull off brilliant plays for his new Little League team despite finding himself stuck at second base while the coach’s son makes multiple bad decisions at shortstop and, worse, publicly puts down other team members. Jeter serves as his own best example of the chosen theme’s theoretical validity, but as he never acknowledges that making the majors (in any sport) requires uncommon physical talent as well as ambition and determination, this values-driven pitch is well out of the strike zone.

Plenty of baseball action, but the paint-by-numbers plot is just a vehicle for equally standard-issue advice. . (foundation ad and curriculum guide, not seen) (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2312-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Jeter/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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