After all, as Horn puts it in this winning debut, “where you found kids, you always found parents who needed some assistance...

DEWEY FAIRCHILD, PARENT PROBLEM SOLVER

Hey, kids, are you saddled with a waaay overprotective mother? A dad who picks his nose? Parents discussing a move to Alaska? See Dewey Fairchild!

Actually, that move to Alaska involves Dewey’s own parents, and as it turns out, he needs some grown-up help redirecting the impulse. Otherwise business is so good that he has an office with a secret entrance and satisfied clients not only from his own fifth-grade class, but even from other schools. He’s ably assisted in his methodical investigations and hilariously canny strategies by still-spry family friend Clara Cottonwood, an unfailing source of both wisdom and cookies, whose glib recitation of the themes of her last 93 birthday parties alone catapults her well over the threshold of awesome. With her help, along with that of several satisfied peer allies and customers rounding out the all-white cast, Dewey tackles parental challenges ranging from spying on the aforementioned nose picker (and seeing things no child should ever see, yuck) to derailing out-of-control cases of germophobia and addiction to practical jokes. His string of triumphs will have readers cheering him on, rolling in the aisles, and wishing they could line up for consultations.

After all, as Horn puts it in this winning debut, “where you found kids, you always found parents who needed some assistance to be, shall we say, their best selves.” Amen to that. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-944995-16-4

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Entrancing and uplifting.

STAY

A small dog, the elderly woman who owns him, and a homeless girl come together to create a tale of serendipity.

Piper, almost 12, her parents, and her younger brother are at the bottom of a long slide toward homelessness. Finally in a family shelter, Piper finds that her newfound safety gives her the opportunity to reach out to someone who needs help even more. Jewel, mentally ill, lives in the park with her dog, Baby. Unwilling to leave her pet, and forbidden to enter the shelter with him, she struggles with the winter weather. Ree, also homeless and with a large dog, helps when she can, but after Jewel gets sick and is hospitalized, Baby’s taken to the animal shelter, and Ree can’t manage the complex issues alone. It’s Piper, using her best investigative skills, who figures out Jewel’s backstory. Still, she needs all the help of the shelter Firefly Girls troop that she joins to achieve her accomplishment: to raise enough money to provide Jewel and Baby with a secure, hopeful future and, maybe, with their kindness, to inspire a happier story for Ree. Told in the authentic alternating voices of loving child and loyal dog, this tale could easily slump into a syrupy melodrama, but Pyron lets her well-drawn characters earn their believable happy ending, step by challenging step, by reaching out and working together. Piper, her family, and Jewel present white; Pyron uses hair and naming convention, respectively, to cue Ree as black and Piper’s friend Gabriela as Latinx.

Entrancing and uplifting. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-283922-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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