Continued reliance on formula makes this third outing too much like the first two.

THE FEARSOME FIREBIRD

From the Curiosity House series , Vol. 3

Set in the 1930s, this third book of the Curiosity House series continues to follow four orphans who are performers and residents of Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders.

In the previous book, the orphans, Sam, Max, Thomas, and Pippa, only barely escaped capture by the mad scientist Nicholas Rattigan, who vanished after murdering Sam's parents. Under the protection of their new caretaker, Mr. Dumfrey, head of the museum, the children are rallying to move on from their grief when a mysterious string of robberies hits close to home. After someone poisons and kills all of Gen. Farnum's fleas from his world-famous flea circus, Farnum is arrested for murder. Knowing Farnum is incapable of such an act, and after the occurrence of a second murder while he's in jail, the orphans suspect that Rattigan may be lurking about yet again. These events lead the orphans to discover the tragic origins of their exceptional abilities, and they find themselves racing to uncover a deadly plot that could lead to the destruction of New York City. The plot is somewhat engaging in building suspense as the orphans attempt to unveil the hidden traitors, but the delivery of a dark reveal about the orphans is derailed by repetitive foreshadowing that establishes a predictable outcome. In the end, whimsy and a quick pace fail to compensate for the plot’s shortcomings.

Continued reliance on formula makes this third outing too much like the first two. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-227087-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...

GHOSTS

Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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