The slow dismantling of Petra’s faith in her loved ones adds a delicious instability to the growing unease of this WWII...

OUR CASTLE BY THE SEA

An English girl whose mother is German is ensnared by her neighbors’ bigotry and by apparent treason at the onset of World War II.

Twelve-year-old Petra lives in a lighthouse on the coast of England, so close to Europe that she can see right across to France on a clear day. When the war begins, some of the villagers—her neighbors for her entire life—behave abominably to Petra’s family. Her German-born mother is accused of treason and sent to an internment camp, and though Petra is confident of Mutti’s innocence, someone has been sending state secrets to the Nazis. Could it be that Petra’s nearest and dearest aren’t what they seem? No one in her family is acting normally. The stakes seem to rise slowly, coming to a breaking point as Petra’s personal tragedies intertwine with the grim reality of the Dunkirk evacuation. The (historically accurate) increasing maltreatment of the town’s German-British and Italian-British families increases Petra’s sense of dislocation in her previously cozy village setting (characters are all white). Strange’s deft hand with the had-I-but-known flavor of foreshadowing maintains a beautifully eerie, slightly gothic tone (occasionally at the expense of a believable 12-year-old voice).

The slow dismantling of Petra’s faith in her loved ones adds a delicious instability to the growing unease of this WWII thriller . (Historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35385-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read.

MOMENTOUS EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS

From the Life of a Cactus series

In the sequel to Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus (2017), Aven Green confronts her biggest challenge yet: surviving high school without arms.

Fourteen-year-old Aven has just settled into life at Stagecoach Pass with her adoptive parents when everything changes again. She’s entering high school, which means that 2,300 new kids will stare at her missing arms—and her feet, which do almost everything hands can (except, alas, air quotes). Aven resolves to be “blasé” and field her classmates’ pranks with aplomb, but a humiliating betrayal shakes her self-confidence. Even her friendships feel unsteady. Her friend Connor’s moved away and made a new friend who, like him, has Tourette’s syndrome: a girl. And is Lando, her friend Zion’s popular older brother, being sweet to Aven out of pity—or something more? Bowling keenly depicts the universal awkwardness of adolescence and the particular self-consciousness of navigating a disability. Aven’s “armless-girl problems” realistically grow thornier in this outing, touching on such tough topics as death and aging, but warm, quirky secondary characters lend support. A few preachy epiphanies notwithstanding, Aven’s honest, witty voice shines—whether out-of-reach vending-machine snacks are “taunting” her or she’s nursing heartaches. A subplot exploring Aven’s curiosity about her biological father resolves with a touching twist. Most characters, including Aven, appear white; Zion and Lando are black.

Those preparing to “slay the sucktastic beast known as high school” will particularly appreciate this spirited read. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-3329-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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