THE GAWGON AND THE BOY

A sweet tale of imagination and intergenerational friendship on the cusp of the Depression. Eleven-year-old David, recovering from a severe bout of pneumonia, rejoices in the doctor’s advice that he not return to school—until, that is, “Aunt” Annie, a true battleaxe, volunteers to tutor him. But David, a dreamy boy who loves to make up stories of derring-do (punctuating the text throughout and featuring himself), soon learns that The Gawgon’s (“Gorgon”) methodologies are perfect for him, as she feeds him an unconventional education hinging on stories that become further fuel for his imagination (she supplies the smile for a frustrated Leonardo’s greatest work, among other feats). This is a departure for master fantasist Alexander (How the Cat Swallowed Thunder, 2000, etc.), who here eschews a grand canvas in favor of close and affectionate portraits of the many quirky characters in David’s life: his father, who plots to sell bottled water from the River Jordan (generously diluted with tap water) when his business fails; Uncle Eustace, the tombstone salesman; the doomsaying Aunt Rosie, one of whose frequent malapropisms gives rise to The Gawgon’s nickname. At the center of this web of loving relationships is the one that grows between David and The Gawgon, the memory of which supports David after her death. While his family certainly feels the effects of the stock-market crash, David himself is largely insulated from it both by the strength of his relationships and by his ability to find a story in just about anything. Laced with gentle humor and sustained by David’s voice (“I would have begged to be flogged, disemboweled, and forced to drink molten lead rather than returned to classes. I had some reluctance about being educated”)—a quietly zany tribute to the power of stories. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-46677-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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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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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

AFTER ALL I'VE DONE

A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Still, its revelations make a fine yarn. (Fiction. 10- 14)

WALK TWO MOONS

During the six days it takes Sal's paternal grandparents to drive her west to Idaho in time for her mother's birthday, she tells them about her friend Phoebe—a story that, the 13-year-old comes to realize, in many ways parallels her own: Each girl had a mother who left home without warning.

The mystery of Phoebe's more conventional mother's disappearance and its effects on her family and eventual explanation unfold as the journey, with its own offbeat incidents, proceeds; meanwhile, in Sal's intricate narrative, the tragic events surrounding her mother's flight are also gradually revealed. After Sal fell from a tree, her mother carried her back to the house; soon after, she bore a stillborn child. Slowly, the love between Sal's parents, her mother's inconsolable grief, and Sal's life since her departure emerge; last to surface are the painful facts that Sal has been most reluctant to face. Creech, an American who has published novels in Britain, fashions characters with humor and sensitivity, but Sal's poignant story would have been stronger without quite so many remarkable coincidences or such a tidy sum of epiphanies at the end.

Still, its revelations make a fine yarn. (Fiction. 10- 14)

Pub Date: June 30, 1994

ISBN: 978-0-06-023334-1

Page Count: 280

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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