This empathetic debut is a middle-grade whodunit with a very special heart.

THE GOLDFISH BOY

From the Goldfish Boy series , Vol. 1

Matthew is the Jimmy Stewart of this Rear Window for middle graders.

Behind the safety of his bedroom window, 12-year-old Matthew Corbin watches the world go by. Unable to go to school consistently or play with friends like other children his age because of a crippling fear of germs, Matthew observes life from behind the safety of glass windowpanes. Neighbors come and go about their business. Children play. And one day, a posh black car delivers a young girl and her baby brother to their grandfather, and neither Matthew nor his cul-de-sac in a largely white London suburb will ever be the same. When 15-month-old Teddy disappears, Matthew, with the unexpected help of a quirky, cemetery-obsessed neighbor, vows to solve the mystery of his disappearance. Matthew’s struggles with OCD and guilt over the death of his own baby brother are heartbreakingly real, yet somehow, even in Matthew’s most difficult moments, the novel never loses its sense of hope. Hope that Teddy will be found. And hope that Matthew will fight his demons and reclaim his life. A secondary cast of characters, including Matthew’s parents and Melody Bird, his sassy, self-appointed investigative partner, helps to make this possible. Thompson strikes the perfect balance, seemingly without compromise, between an issue-driven novel and one with broad, commercial appeal.

This empathetic debut is a middle-grade whodunit with a very special heart. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-05394-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.

ALMOST SUPER

Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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