Rewards await persistent readers: sly satire, quirky detail, and a smart, opinionated heroine brimming with ebullient...

RUBY REDFORT PICK YOUR POISON

From the Ruby Redfort series , Vol. 5

In the series’ penultimate adventure, the whip-smart, code-cracking teen spy for the secret Spectrum agency takes on venomous snakes, traitors, and evildoers but is helpless against poisonous rumors circulating at school.

Out of loyalty, Ruby took the rap for classmates whose fight summoned the cops; now she’s grounded, sentenced to community service, and forced to babysit Archie Lemon, age 1. After solving many cases for Spectrum, she’s suddenly frozen out of important briefings; do they think she’s the suspected mole? Her quick action saves a querulous neighbor’s snake-bitten dog but nets her only his abuse. No good deed goes unpunished, but the white 13-year-old isn’t about to give up sleuthing. There’s something weird about billboards advertising a new soft drink; investigating leads Ruby to familiar foes. Set in 1972 Southern California, the series, by an English author, has a 1950s sensibility (typical exclamations and epithets include “jeepers” and “Sam Hill”). The cellphone- and computer-free cultural ambiance is refreshing, but although the once-cartoonish characters have deepened over the series, their largely all-white world hasn’t evolved. It’s Little Lulu and Archie territory—no Vietnam War or cultural upheaval here. However dated, the ingenious puzzles and humor, especially in dialogue among Ruby and her peers, remain highlights. Still, slow pacing, frequent digressions, and unsentimental, bone-dry humor may challenge U.S. readers used to nonstop action and a straight plot throughline.

Rewards await persistent readers: sly satire, quirky detail, and a smart, opinionated heroine brimming with ebullient self-esteem. (afterword) (Mystery. 9-14)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5471-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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