THE TOM SAWYER FIRES

Who's the arsonist on the loose in Civil War-era San Francisco? That's the mystery this time for the heroes of The Mark Twain Murders—journalist Mark Twain (the very same) and the 15-year-old urchin/narrator who calls himself "the Duke of Baywater." The Duke, hungry and prowling around warehouses for valuable trash, witnesses an explosion at a chemical factory; the only clue is a nearby van bearing the name of a photographer. So when the fire attracts newsman Mark Twain to the scene, the co-sleuths again team up, with assistance from mustachioed fireman Tom Sawyer. They're just in time to see another fire break out during the parade welcoming a star-actress ("the Pritchard") to the local theater. And, just by coincidence, the theater's tart/sweet old costume-lady, Letty Cleary, has a connection to the mystery-photographer—who seems to be planning bigger, more dangerous fires, aimed at San Francisco's pro-Union establishment. Could it possibly be, then, that the arch-villain is once again Major St. John, the Confederate spy who plotted to rob the San Francisco Mint in The Mark Twain Murders? Yes, indeed, the presumed-dead Major—"so cold and calculating that he was beyond maean"—is still alive, posing as a photographer, and up to no good. He captures the heroes briefly, coolly kills dear Letty. (Her death is a little disturbing in such a light, comic-booky caper.) Escapes, gun-waving, and another capture ensue—as the heroes chase the Major through a society costume-ball. But, though locked up in a burning room, the good guys escape again. . . in time to defuse all the arsonist's infernal contraptions. As before, Yep gives the real Mark Twain little color or substance; the Tom Sawyer character is lackluster too, with no kinship to the fictional lad. (According to the foreword, there was a real S.F. fireman who claimed to have inspired Twain's creation.) But this less elaborate sequel is another bright, quick, folksy adventure—at its best in the period touches, especially the firefighting details.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1984

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1984

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A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes.

THE TOWER OF NERO

From the Trials of Apollo series , Vol. 5

In this tumultuous series closer, Apollo, transformed into a mortal teenager, takes on both a deified emperor in a luxurious Manhattan high-rise and an older adversary.

Lester/Apollo’s coast-to-coast quest reaches its climactic stage as, with help from both eager squads of fledgling demigods from Camp Half-Blood and reluctant allies from realms deep below New York, he invades the palatial lair of Emperor Nero—followed by a solo bout with another foe from a past struggle. Riordan lays on the transformation of the heedless, arrogant sun god to a repentant lover of his long-neglected semidivine offspring and of humanity in general, which has served as the series’ binding theme, thickly enough to have his humbled narrator even apologizing (twice!) to his underwear for having to change it periodically. Still, the author delivers a fast, action-driven plot with high stakes, lots of fighting, and occasional splashes of gore brightened by banter and silly bits, so readers aren’t likely to mind all the hand-wringing. He also leaves any real-life parallels to the slick, megalomaniacal, emotionally abusive Nero entirely up to readers to discern and dishes out just deserts all round, neatly tying up loose ends in a set of closing vignettes. The supporting cast is predominantly White, with passing mention of diverse representation.

A brisk, buffed-up finish threaded with inner and outer, not to mention sartorial, changes. (glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4645-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S HALLOWEEN

A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes.

Little Blue Truck and his buddy Toad are off to a party, and they invite readers (and a black cat) along for the ride: “ ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ / says Little Blue. / ‘It’s Halloween!’ / You come, too.” As they drive, they are surprised (and joined) by many of their friends in costume. “Who’s that in a tutu / striking a pose / up on the tiniest / tips of her toes? / Under the mask / who do you see?” Lifting the flap unmasks a friend: “ ‘Quack!’ says the duck. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’ ” The sheep is disguised as a clown, the cow’s a queen, the pig’s a witch, the hen and her chick are pirates, and the horse is a dragon. Not to be left out, Little Blue has a costume, too. The flaps are large and sturdy, and enough of the animals’ characteristic features are visible under and around the costumes that little ones will be able to make successful guesses even on the first reading. Lovely curvy shapes and autumn colors fade to dusky blues as night falls, and children are sure to notice the traditional elements of a Halloween party: apple bobbing, lit jack-o’-lanterns, and punch and treats.

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77253-3

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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