This series opener is as heartwarming as a fresh cinnamon scone.

SECRETS AND SCONES

From the Secret Recipe Book series , Vol. 1

Scarlett’s mother’s blog posts are about Scarlett—and they’re always humiliating.

Mom is a rising superstar blogger whose shtick is parenting advice. This is great for their single-parent, two-child family’s budget but not for Scarlett’s emotional health. Mom is ruthless, bordering on cruel. Examples of her thoughtlessness include “Psst…Want to Know a Secret? My Daughter’s Best Friend Is Really Dull” and “Bye-Bye, Harvard: My Daughter Has No Interests.” Scarlett used to have friends (the former post drove her best friend away) and interests; she was outgoing and participated in clubs and activities, but she’s become withdrawn and boring in order to deprive Mom of material. When her elderly neighbor is hospitalized, Scarlett enters the woman’s house to investigate mysterious screams (phew—it’s just the cat) and gets an unexpected surprise: a chef-grade kitchen and a very special handmade cookbook. Scarlett wants to try the recipes, but how to do it without Mom finding out? There’s that beautiful kitchen next door. Soon she’s making lovely scones and new friends. The irony that Mom ignores her in order to give her followers parenting advice is not lost on Scarlett, who narrates with humor tinged with melancholy and makes the somewhat outrageous premise believable. Disappointingly, considering the prominence of food and cooking in the story, there’s only one recipe. The book assumes a white default.

This series opener is as heartwarming as a fresh cinnamon scone. (Fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6964-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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