THE WATCHER

A teenager and her little sister discover that they are pieces in a game played across worlds in this suspenseful tale from the Canadian author of The Dark Garden (1997). Though set apart by her exotic white hair and skin, plus an oddly shaped birthmark, Emma has always been the sensible, dependable worrier of the family. She has plenty to worry about, too. As her mother struggles to bring the family bee farm back to profitability, and her sister Summer, subject to ever more frequent spells of weakness, seems to be fading away before her eyes, the old stone circle that her father, an environmental artist, is rebuilding seems to be attracting both odd incidents and mysterious strangers to the area. Suddenly, Emma is shuttling between her world and another, where two moons hang in the sky and overheard conspirators discuss a Game, and a Child, in chilling terms. Emma slowly pieces the puzzle together, identifying the Game’s powerful Players, figuring out the Rules, and discovering her role—and Summer’s too. As it turns out, they are both “Pithwitchen,” changelings sent to replace dead human newborns, and Summer is heir to a throne in that other place. From ominous beginning to tense climax, this page-turner, reminiscent in ways both of William Sleator’s Interstellar Pig (1984) and Eloise Jarvis McGraw’s Moorchild (1996), will keep readers guessing—and as the Game ends in a draw, they’ll be set up for sequels, too. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-55074-829-7

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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FABLEHAVEN

Witty repartee between the central characters, as well as the occasional well-done set piece, isn’t enough to hold this hefty debut together. Teenagers Seth and Kendra are dropped off by traveling parents at their grandfather’s isolated Connecticut estate, and soon discover why he’s so reluctant to have them—the place is a secret haven for magical creatures, both benign and decidedly otherwise. Those others are held in check by a complicated, unwritten and conveniently malleable Compact that is broken on Midsummer Eve, leaving everyone except Kendra captive in a hidden underground chamber with a newly released demon. Mull’s repeated use of the same device to prod the plot along comes off as more labored than comic: Over and over an adult issues a stern but vague warning; Seth ignores it; does some mischief and is sorry afterward. Sometimes Kendra joins in trying to head off her uncommonly dense brother. She comes into her own at the rousing climax, but that takes a long time to arrive; stick with Michael Buckley’s “Sisters Grimm” tales, which carry a similar premise in more amazing and amusing directions. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-59038-581-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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JOEY PIGZA SWALLOWED THE KEY

From the Joey Pigza series , Vol. 1

If Rotten Ralph were a boy instead of a cat, he might be Joey, the hyperactive hero of Gantos's new book, except that Joey is never bad on purpose. In the first-person narration, it quickly becomes clear that he can't help himself; he's so wound up that he not only practically bounces off walls, he literally swallows his house key (which he wears on a string around his neck and which he pull back up, complete with souvenirs of the food he just ate). Gantos's straightforward view of what it's like to be Joey is so honest it hurts. Joey has been abandoned by his alcoholic father and, for a time, by his mother (who also drinks); his grandmother, just as hyperactive as he is, abuses Joey while he's in her care. One mishap after another leads Joey first from his regular classroom to special education classes and then to a special education school. With medication, counseling, and positive reinforcement, Joey calms down. Despite a lighthearted title and jacket painting, the story is simultaneously comic and horrific; Gantos takes readers right inside a human whirlwind where the ride is bumpy and often frightening, especially for Joey. But a river of compassion for the characters runs through the pages, not only for Joey but for his overextended mom and his usually patient, always worried (if only for their safety) teachers. Mature readers will find this harsh tale softened by unusual empathy and leavened by genuinely funny events. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-374-33664-4

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998

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