Despite the flimsy plot and marginal character development, Agatha’s silly antics and enthusiastic delivery should engage...


From the Agatha Parrot series

When the Odd Street School’s clock-tower bell rings off-schedule one night, Agatha Jane Parrot and her chums suspect a mischievous ghost may be the cause.

Agatha, a “very charming and lovely girl with crazy hair and awesome freckles,” lives at 5 Odd St., surrounded by her neighboring best friends, Ivy, Bianca, Ellie, and Martha. In Hargis’ comic black-and-white illustrations, Ivy and Bianca appear somewhat dark-skinned; the other girls, including Agatha, look to be white. One “dark and stormy night,” the school clock-tower bell rings 27 times, disturbing Agatha and her friends. After days of the bell tolling “TOO MANY DONGs,” Ellie suggests there might be a ghost in the tower, triggering the spread of ghost fever throughout the school. The subsequent inexplicable closing of a classroom window and appearance of a glowing face in the clock tower prompt the principal to organize a “GHOST WATCH!” in the school auditorium, where Agatha and her pals tell ghost stories and hilariously resolve the ghost mystery. Addressing readers with chatty directness, punctuated with many exclamations and exclamation points that substitute for nuance, Agatha proves an unflappable heroine.

Despite the flimsy plot and marginal character development, Agatha’s silly antics and enthusiastic delivery should engage readers transitioning to chapter books. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-50672-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.


Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A mystery, a school story, sibling rivalry and the loss of a pet blend surprisingly well in this engaging chapter book. Charmingly awkward fifth grader Edgar Allan decides to solve a series of minor thefts that are plaguing his teacher, Ms. Herschel. Clues are plentiful—and rhymed—but the competition to solve them is fierce. Edgar’s nemesis, Patrick Chen, seems to have the inside track since his dad works in forensics. Edgar, however, finds that the friends he makes along the way provide the winning edge. Including transcripts of Edgar’s ingenuous interviews as well as poems written by a number of class members in her narrative, Amato provides a clear picture of both social and family dynamics while keeping the story moving smoothly along. The author’s characteristic humor is somewhat muted, but examples of amusing wordplay abound. Some readers may guess the identity of the culprit more quickly than Edgar and his friends do, but whodunit is not really the point. Solving puzzles, making friends and learning to see the world more clearly are the true aims of this adventure. (Mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2271-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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