A spirited and magical underdog story.

SPELL SWEEPER

Wizard school is enchanting—unless you’re the janitor.

Such is the life of seventh grader Cara Moone, a remedial wizard with a bad attitude and a utility belt. Not only is she a MOP (Magical Occurrence Purger) at Dragonsong Academy, but her pink unicorn underwear and propensity for rule-breaking further cast her as a misfit. While cleaning up spell dust at several Magical Occurrence sites, Cara encounters a mouth-thingy that oozes black slime. While far from glamorous, her cleanup duties are a critical part of keeping Blisses, or ordinary mortals, happily (even blissfully) ignorant of the magical world that exists right under their noses. Joined by a three-tailed fox, straight-laced classmate Gusto, and an illegal magical pet, Cara must unravel the mystery of an unreliable teacher and her enigmatic—as well as popular and effortlessly cool—classmate Harlee Wu and stop the slime from destroying the Field of Magical Matter. Surprising revelations and plenty of humor keep the story fresh, and the good-vs.-evil plotline is nicely nuanced. A family tragedy and a sisterly rift bring some serious notes to the narrative, while scenes involving a dark magic cult lend sinister vibes. Cara is of Irish descent and reads as White; most other characters read as White with several ancillary characters, such as Harlee, whose surnames add presumed diversity.

A spirited and magical underdog story. (author's note) (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284532-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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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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Lecture-y toward the end, but the scary message is delivered with wrenching, dramatic urgency.

TWO DEGREES

In parallel narratives, four young people simultaneously experience the harrowing effects of climate change.

If terrifying readers is an effective way to spur them to take the climate crisis seriously, Gratz does an admirable job, as he plunges his middle schoolers into desperate, life-threatening straits in three wildly dangerous scenarios. For Akira Kristiansen, a peaceful visit to a treasured grove of Sierra Nevada giant sequoias turns into a frantic scramble to outrace a roaring megafire. In Churchill, Manitoba, eighth grade dudes Owen Mackenzie, a White boy, and George Gruyère (Mushkegowuk) are viciously mauled and then stalked by polar bears. At the same time, Puerto Rican Florida resident Natalie Torres is whirled off in the storm surge when a Category 5 hurricane hits Miami. Along with acknowledging in his afterword that the specific incidents portrayed are fictional but are inspired by actual events happening around the world, not just in North America, the author pulls his characters—dedicated climate activists all in the wake of their narrow escapes from death—together to deliver speeches at an international climate rally at the end. “It’s your world,” Gratz finishes in his author’s note, “your future. It’s up to you to decide what you want that future world to look like, and what you can do to make it happen.”

Lecture-y toward the end, but the scary message is delivered with wrenching, dramatic urgency. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-73567-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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