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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Newbery Medal Winner

THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

more