THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN

AND OTHER GOULISH TALES

“See that shadow there? Could be the bunyip coming to get you! See that thing under the water, way too big to be a fish? That’s him, all right. Better run.” Though Pearson has done a poor job of scholarship, not only skipping source notes entirely, but billing her severely abridged version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” as anonymously “North American,” these fourteen retold tales are just right for reading late at night, under the sheets, with the bedroom door closed. Her renditions are readable, tellable, and matter of fact, taking readers from graveyard (“The Brave Little Tailor”) to fen (“The Buried Moon”), from Bluebeard’s castle to an igloo where a lonely fisherman’s tears bring a “Skeleton Woman” back to life. Amply illustrating the pages, Rowe adds gleefully atmospheric touches: rows of eyes peer out of the murky swamp; Vasilissa’s father looks on with mild surprise as she blasts her cruel stepmother to ashes with a glowing skull; the wolf grins up at viewers as a cautionary lesson to all who “cry wolf” needlessly. Ready for some chills? Don’t forget to check those flashlight batteries. (Folktales. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-56656-377-1

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Crocodile/Interlink

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2000

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THE SECRET KEEPERS

A lad with “yin-yang” eyes lays two troubled ghosts to rest in this San Francisco Chinatown tale.

Jackson is haunted. He is visited by the ghosts of both his older brother, killed in the previous year’s Great Earthquake, and an unknown young woman whose appearance scares off the moviegoers attending his struggling family’s nickelodeon. The boy therefore determinedly sets off to find out what the spirits’ unfinished business might be. Jackson's investigation is prefaced by his experiences during the quake and punctuated with incidents of bullying and classroom taunting, a brief stint working in an opium parlor and collusion with an older cousin scheming to steal money and run away rather than be sent to China. The search ultimately leads to family revelations, the secretly buried bones of a young mother who died in childbirth and a ghostly “wedding” that precipitates an upbeat close. Though the story is well-stocked with specters and misadventures, it is hampered by choppy prose and a lack of distinct characters or sense of place.

A patchwork. (Historical fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-896580-96-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Tradewind Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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Middle schoolers will clamor for a transfer.

MIDDLE-SCHOOL COOL

Graduates of Wayside School will fit right in at the decidedly unconventional Kaboom Academy.

The Academy is located in a former mental situation, staffed in part by former patients and dedicated to making students fall “madly in love with learning!” It offers literary classics in easy-to-swallow pill form, games of dodgeball in which the balls vigorously throw themselves, loud gongs and cannon fire instead of bells, and character-building lunches sprinkled with “curiosity,” “honesty” and other “spices of life.” The school also has a journalism class of nine young investigative reporters—including legally blind photographer Leo and telepathic former conjoined twins Aliya and Taliya—determined to winkle out all of the Academy’s secrets. Williams weighs her episodic tale down with detailed expositions of the central cast’s unhappy pasts and troubled domestic situations, as well as heavy-handed axe grinding in repeated rants against the boring, pointless, time-wasting experience of going to normal school. Nevertheless, the mix of out-and-out magic with far-fetched but logical twists creates an enjoyably surreal romp. Also, the author shows a knack for wacky inventions, from those book pills to the climactic arrival of an Invisiblimp.

Middle schoolers will clamor for a transfer. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74349-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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