Still, for many who pick it up, well-developed characters and a mild mystery may not be enough to sustain interest in this...

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A SUMMER OF SUNDAYS

An almost 12-year-old girl tries to distinguish herself from her five boisterous siblings in a very quiet coming-of-age tale.

Eland (Scones and Sensibility, 2010) has crafted another thoughtful, slow-paced, character-driven story. The experience of being accidentally left behind at a service station as her family makes the trip to a small Pennsylvania town, where her father has been rehabbing the library, perfectly sums up for Sunday the position she holds: She’s always hidden by the crowd. When her family returns a couple of hours later, not because they noticed her missing but because they lost their way, it reinforces her need to find a way to stand out among her siblings. Discovery of an old manuscript in the library cellar, possibly penned by an iconic and reclusive author, might provide the path to fame. Sunday, a strong reader who celebrates the value of good books, teams up with Jude, a sensitive local boy, to investigate the growing evidence that the story is somehow linked to an infamously withdrawn local man, Ben. Sunday’s competent, low-key parents and realistically depicted, lively siblings are lovingly portrayed and may amuse readers growing up in more typical small families.

Still, for many who pick it up, well-developed characters and a mild mystery may not be enough to sustain interest in this overlong effort. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60684-030-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Egmont USA

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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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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Compassionate and compelling.

CLOSER TO NOWHERE

Sixth grade cousins learn to navigate complicated family dynamics.

Cal came to live with Hannah and her parents nearly 15 months ago. The two share a mean-spirited, alcoholic grandmother; their Italian heritage; and red hair. Hannah, a gymnast and dancer, has enjoyed stability, attention, and affection from her parents. Cal’s life has been filled with the loss of his mother at age 9 followed by a period of abuse and neglect by his now-imprisoned father. Cal suffers from PTSD and a defensive kind of vigilance while Hannah resents that Cal’s peculiar behavior makes him a target at school. Brief chapters in the first-person voices of Cal and Hannah reveal their divergent personalities. Imaginative Cal describes the world in terms of “Fact or Fiction,” his statements and answers offering sometimes wryly ambiguous observations of his experience. Practical and more certain of herself, Hannah’s poems with the header “Definition” are a jumping-off point for sharing glimpses into a more physically and emotionally privileged childhood. Hopkins’ use of free verse provides a canvas for sure-handed, brush-stroke development of the backstory and plot and emotional investment and identification with the characters. A school lockdown and shooting at the climax of the story allow Cal to demonstrate his new ability to connect with others and to see the ways that kindness can come back around.

Compassionate and compelling. (author's note) (Verse fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-10861-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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