Sweet but ultimately unsatisfying.

MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a girl travels to Paris with her mother and finds solace and resolution.

Grandma Sylvia's promised 12th birthday gift to the City of Lights is set aside when she is killed in a tragic accident. Compounding her grief, Nora is angry that her mother doesn't appear sufficiently upset. While sorting affairs in Grandma's apartment, Nora discovers three tickets to Paris meant for her, Sylvia and her mother. Also included are a map and instructions for Nora to take several envelopes and a locked box on the trip to be opened in sequence, and Nora realizes it must be a kind of treasure hunt. She decides to keep the instructions, envelopes and box hidden from her mother. When they reach Paris (Nora’s brother takes the third ticket), Nora is afraid her mother will not allow her to go to the places outlined in Grandma's instructions, so the girl goes without her. She quickly learns that her mother was intended to be included, so the two of them follow Grandma's pre-planned and gift-filled journey, repairing and strengthening their relationship along the way. Nora's hopeful, open-hearted character is beautifully depicted. Plotwise, though, the story is a bit of a letdown. Though the ending provides a sufficiently appealing wrap-up, after such a long, suspenseful buildup, it almost can’t help but be anticlimactic.

Sweet but ultimately unsatisfying. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-70808-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Fans of the series will be delighted.

CLASH

From the Click series , Vol. 4

Can Olive stay positive when a social-climbing bully moves to town?

In her fourth adventure, sixth grader Olive Branche is on top of the world until new girl Natasha begins to encroach on her friendships, slowly and methodically freezing her out of her many different social circles. Relentlessly optimistic Olive tries to stay genial despite Nat’s overt jibes, but when Nat takes it to a new level and ruins Olive’s carefully planned Halloween party, Olive finally confronts her. When Nat finds herself consequently ostracized, empathetic Olive has a change of heart and extends her an olive branch (groan). Olive and Nat’s relationship is highly idealized, bordering almost on wish fulfillment; Nat’s backstory offers some explanation for her behavior, but she is accepted back into the fold more easily than may seem realistic. Olive’s appeal is in her unceasing Pollyanna-like sunniness and her ability to be accommodating and find the best in every situation. Though consistent in tone with its predecessors, in this entry Olive does have some moments of anger (albeit quickly reconciled); her portrayal here is the most human she’s been throughout the series. Although this is the fourth installment, each volume is mostly self-contained, making this equally accessible for established and new readers. Olive and Nat read as White; the supporting cast is inclusive and diverse.

Fans of the series will be delighted. (Halloween costume craft ideas, author Q&A) (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-24220-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Etch/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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