This charming, engrossing tale set in a vividly realized world is expertly paced and will appeal to fans of wilderness...

ORPHAN ISLAND

When the bell rings and the green boat emerges from the mist, gliding up into the cove, Jinny knows that it is time: time for her beloved Deen to leave and for a new child to take his place.

Now Jinny will become the Elder, and the balance of life on the island will be maintained. The ragtag bunch of nine orphans—each one “boat” (year) apart in age—are the sole human residents of a benevolent wilderness, busy chasing wild kittens and harvesting honey from docile bees, reading from a stockpile of tattered books, and inducting each new arrival into their ways. Once someone broke the rule about never picking the last of anything, but having experienced the consequences (no more curlyferns!), they are careful now to behave. That is, until Jinny—spirited, curious, and defiant—decides to break the most sacred rule of the island, throwing their universe frighteningly out of whack. The children’s hair (black, red, blond) and eyes (blue, brown) are described, and Jinny remarks on the dark skin of two of her fellow orphans; the cover art shows a girl with dark brown skin. Despite the idyllic setting, one where children can safely fling themselves off cliffs and surf air currents, the story is suffused with melancholy and the haunting absence of parents and former residents. The mystery of the children’s origins and the source of their stockpile of supplies are never resolved, perhaps indicating a sequel to come.

This charming, engrossing tale set in a vividly realized world is expertly paced and will appeal to fans of wilderness adventure stories and character-driven relationship novels alike. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-244341-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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