A harmless, middle-grade mystery for budding sleuths.

RUBY REDFORT TAKE YOUR LAST BREATH

From the Ruby Redfort series , Vol. 2

Thirteen-year-old secret agent Ruby Redfort (Look Into My Eyes, 2012) barely has a week to breathe before finding herself in the middle of another dastardly evil plan—oh, there are also pirates, a sea monster, a mysterious stranger and a lost treasure, too.

This retro spy adventure opens with a series of strange marine disturbances. Coast Guard signals are scrambled, all the fish are gone, and there is a whispering sound coming from the ocean. Plus, one of the divers from Spectrum, the supersecret spy agency where Ruby trains, has washed ashore, dead. To add to the ever-evolving, sometimes belabored plot, the boat that Ruby’s parents are on is attacked by pirates, leaving both Sabina and Brant Redfort missing at sea. All of the subplots are ocean-related, but readers (and Ruby) don’t know how they are connected until Count von Viscount, the villain from the first volume, shows up briefly—his manifest evil nature enough to tie everything together. Child’s cliffhanger chapter endings help the pace tremendously, and the codes (musical and binary) that Ruby deciphers are great fun. But thrilling and edge-of-your-seat adventure? That seems to be the territory of other literary spies, despite a cover that oozes intrigue.

A harmless, middle-grade mystery for budding sleuths. (Mystery. 9-14)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5468-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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