Mary Downing Hahn fans will enjoy this just-right blend of history and spooky.

SCRITCH SCRATCH

A ghost haunting prompts a Chicago girl to investigate her local history.

Seventh grader Claire loves the predictability of science while her father relishes the paranormal, running a ghost-tour business in Chicago. Their worlds collide when Claire must help out her father at the last minute, and a ghost boy not only becomes an unwanted passenger on the bus, but follows her home and around the city. Currie’s visceral descriptions of the boy’s haunting—scratching behind walls, dripping water, icy air, scrawled notes, and more—exude creepy. Also scary to the middle schooler is losing Casley, her best friend and science fair partner, to Emily, the new girl in school who’s preoccupied with makeup. When Claire can no longer keep the ghost a secret, she recruits her older brother, along with Casley and Emily, to help her discover his identity. As she tries to apply the scientific method to the paranormal mystery, Claire realizes as well that there’s a human story behind every historical event. And as finding the ghost’s story becomes her mission, she researches a true Chicago disaster that killed more lives than the sinking of the Titanic. In the process, she also learns that jealousy hinders female solidarity. The historical details are fascinating, and the lessons Claire learns are lightly delivered. All characters, including the ghost boy, assume the white default.

Mary Downing Hahn fans will enjoy this just-right blend of history and spooky. (author’s note) (Paranormal suspense. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-0972-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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The series keeps cruising along…though iffy casting may be an early sign that it’s losing steam.

SPY SCHOOL AT SEA

From the Spy School series , Vol. 9

In a new caper, the Spy School team thwarts a fiendish scheme on the high seas.

A fresh chance to catch up to world-class gourmand and perennial foe Murray Hill plants dogged CIA junior agent Ben Ripley and associates—including markedly more competent classmate Erica Hale and her equally able mom, Catherine—aboard the Emperor of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, for a fresh round of ridiculously destructive chases, startling twists, and repeated attempts on the hapless young spy’s life that are somehow always averted in the nick of time. Along with adding a grandfatherly, eco-conscious Costa Rican drug lord to the supporting cast, Gibbs flirts with stereotypes by trotting in, among the few characters who don’t at least present as White, a Chinese teen given to muddling her English idioms, her bling-loving mother, and a chipper shipboard event manager of Australian Indigenous descent. Still, the revved-up plot will leave readers as breathless as Ben is in the wake of a final, unexpected turn in his relationship with Erica. Finally, finally nabbing the slobby supervillain (at least for now) as well as saving the lives of hundreds of oblivious, hard-partying onboard tourists must count for something.

The series keeps cruising along…though iffy casting may be an early sign that it’s losing steam. (Thriller. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7943-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards.

BEST NERDS FOREVER

Two young ghosts with unfinished business in this world join forces.

Eighth grade cyclist Finn McAllister decides to undertake a search for the supposedly crazed driver who forced him off the road and over a cliff to his death, but he spends far more of his time attending his own funeral, hovering near his grieving family and his four besties to overhear conversations, and floating through school—skipping the girls’ restroom because he still has some standards—and positively hammering on the realization that wasting any of life’s opportunities can only lead to regret. He discovers that he can still taste ice cream, smell farts, skip stones in the local lake, and use a TV remote. He can also share thoughts with both the living and with Isabella Rojas, the ghost of a classmate who vanished several months previously but is still hanging around, although she is not sure why. Eventually, in a massively contrived climax that leaves both souls ready to move on, Finn comes up with a scheme to produce proof of Isabella’s death to bring closure to her mother and also absolves his hit-and-run driver of fault (for a reason readers will see coming). In this outing, the usually dynamic duo throws together an aimless ramble around a set of flimsy mysteries that fail to coalesce. Finn reads as White; Isabella is cued as Latinx. Final illustrations not seen.

Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards. (Paranormal fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-50024-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

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