Though ambitious, this Gothic misses the mark.

READ REVIEW

THE SHRUNKEN HEAD

From the Curiosity House series , Vol. 1

Four orphans employ highly unusual talents to solve a series of murders in 1930s New York City.

Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders displays mummies, wax figures, depictions of grisly crime scenes, and now an amazing shrunken head, all to titillate the public. A giant, a fat lady, an elephant man, and others demonstrate their skills and amaze the customers. But the tale is centered on young Sam, Pippa, Thomas, and Max, children whose peculiar abilities set them apart from the world while joining them together into a kind of family unit. The action begins when a customer dies after seeing the shrunken head. When the head is then stolen, headlines scream the events, and suspicion falls on Dumfrey and the children. Trying to save him and the only home they know, the children find themselves ever more deeply enmeshed in difficulties as the bodies mount up and danger stalks them. The plot abounds with action and mystery, but it is filled with red herrings and detours as well as oft-repeated hints about the identity of the master villain. The four orphans’ characters develop very slowly, and their interactions are repetitive and predictable, while the supporting characters, though large in number, are almost entirely one-dimensional. Much of the tale feels self-consciously trope-dependent, too reminiscent of other works and with not enough original material to carry the day.

Though ambitious, this Gothic misses the mark. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-227081-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read.

ALI CROSS

The prolific king of the beach read is back with an intergenerational mystery for the 9-to-12-year-old set.

Ali Cross, the son of Patterson’s most famous creation, African American homicide detective Alex Cross, is “starting to think the worst might have happened” to his mixed-race friend Gabriel “Gabe” Qualls, who disappeared on Dec. 21 and hasn’t been heard from as of Christmas Eve, when the book opens. Ali offers an impromptu prayer for Gabe at the pre-holiday service at his all-black church as well as an impromptu press conference outside of it as journalists and paparazzi confront Alex about his alleged coma-inducing assault of a murder suspect’s father. Then someone robs the Crosses’ home that night along with four other homes; the Crosses’ Christmas gifts are stolen. Ali, obsessed with finding Gabe and feeling that these events will distract his dad and the police from searching for him, starts his own investigation—complete with looking at some contraband footage of Gabe’s unusually loaded backpack obtained by Ali’s stepmother, also a cop—and questioning his school and gaming pals, a diverse group. Writing in Ali’s voice with occasional cutaways to third-person chapters that follow Alex, Patterson sprinkles the narrative with pop-culture references even as he takes readers through the detective process.

Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-53041-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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