Hornik’s story seems uncertain about its intent. It demonstrates that everyone has some necessary secrets, but also indicates that secrets can be damaging. The author does not, however, clarify the difference between healthy privacy and unhealthy secrets. The story begins as a fun ride into the magical classroom of Ms. Snickle. There are no tests, and everything, including some students, is mysteriously enchanted. Eva used to be a swan until an evil sorcerer turned her into a little girl, and Dennis’s mother is the tooth fairy. And there is Haley, who sneezes constantly. The one rule in the classroom is keeping secrets. Then one student, Lacey, discovers her love for tattling, divulging each secret as she learns it. The consequence of this is a very grouchy student body, except for Haley, who, readers find out, sneezes because she is allergic—to secrets. But when Lacey reveals the biggest secret of all, she discovers the downside of exposing others’ privacy. With all the secrets aired, Haley is finally freed from her allergy, but Ms. Snickle’s magical solution to restore peace has Haley grabbing for the Kleenex again. Written with wit and a just-this-side-of-ordinary appeal, middle readers will find this a pleasant entertainment. The object lesson of the story, however, is ambiguous as Haley’s sneezing attacks disappear when all secrets are revealed, but suffers a recurrence when secrecy is restored while everyone else seems better off when their secrets stay private. The story is enhanced by Tilley’s (Hide and Seek, see below, etc.) occasional, cheerful illustrations. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 23, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-03435-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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Series fans will enjoy revisiting familiar characters and exploring the island of Cuba with them.


From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 5

The Unicorn Rescue Society investigates the disappearance of a Cuban sea serpent.

In the fifth series installment, returning protagonists Uchenna and Elliot are in school, learning about water, when Professor Fauna calls them away. As the kids board the professor’s rickety single-propeller plane, they learn where exactly they are heading: Cuba. The island is in the middle of a massive drought, and Professor Fauna has reason to believe that the Madres de aguas (the Mother of Waters) has gone missing. It’s up to the society to find the sea serpent before any more damage is done to the people and wildlife of Cuba. As they set out on their mission of derring-do, they realize that once again they are up against their nemeses, the Schmoke Brothers. Via Yoenis, their Cuban American society liaison, Uchenna, Elliot, and readers learn about the political and economic hardships experienced by the people of Cuba, the island’s lack of basic goods and necessities, and Cuba’s need for real democracy (although the current role of the military is elided). This is conveyed within a quick, fast-paced read that’s ideal for kids who want a straightforward magical adventure. Uchenna is Nigerian, Elliot is white and Jewish, and Professor Fauna is Peruvian.

Series fans will enjoy revisiting familiar characters and exploring the island of Cuba with them. (Fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3142-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Eeney meeney miney moe, catch this series before it goes! (Adventure. 7-9)


From the Fantastic Frame series , Vol. 1

Two kids get up close and personal with some great works of art in this first in a new series.

Tiger Brooks is used to his little sister’s fantastical stories. So when the top-hatted orange pig she describes turns out to be not only real, but a next-door neighbor, Tiger enlists the help of his kooky new friend, Luna, to investigate. It turns out the pig works for the reclusive painter Viola Dots. Years ago a magical picture frame swallowed up her only son, and she’s searched for him in artworks ever since. When Tiger’s tinkering starts the magic up again, he and Luna are sucked into a reproduction of Henri Rousseau’s Surprised! or Tiger in a Tropical Storm, hungry predator and all. After meeting and failing to rescue Viola’s son in this adventure, the series is set up for the intrepid pair to infiltrate other classic paintings in the future. Backmatter provides information on the real Rousseau and his life. Oliver keeps the plot itself snappy and peppy. While there are few surprises, there’s also an impressive lack of lag time. This is helped in no small part by Kallis’ art, which goes from pen-and-ink drawings to full-blown color images once the kids cross over into the painting. Tiger is a white boy, and Luna is a dark-haired Latina.

Eeney meeney miney moe, catch this series before it goes! (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-448-48087-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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