From the Sixty-Eight Rooms series , Vol. 4

A disappointing (probable) end to a series that should have been better, given its promising concept.

In the concluding Sixty-Eight Rooms adventure, Ruthie and Jack finally recognize the enormous power and great danger that magic can bring.

In the past, shrinking down and exploring the miniature Thorne Rooms was thrilling. Who wouldn’t want to explore more? But Ruthie and Jack don’t know the full extent of the magic. A letter they find from Narcissa Thorne, the woman who created the Thorne Rooms, puts everything into perspective. The warning of danger becomes all too real. Cycling through more time-travel excursions than ever before—some only a scant five pages long and some with no apparent purpose to the narrative—Ruthie and Jack find themselves in multiple cities of 18th-century England, in the middle of the Boxer Rebellion in China and, through a surprising portal, at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. Along the way they learn more rules of time travel and realize that it is possible to get stuck in a time period with no way of return. Multiple adventures and seemingly tense moments should spark the pace, but the story plods along, never reaching its full potential. (By book’s end, the magic may need to be shut off, but the opportunity to reignite it still exists. Malone is keeping options open.)

A disappointing (probable) end to a series that should have been better, given its promising concept. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-307-97721-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014


A page-turner with striking characters and a satisfying puzzle at its heart.

A boy who visits a little free library gets more than he bargained for when he becomes a sleuth caught up in the middle of his town’s most enduring mystery.

Ever since a tragic fire destroyed the Martinville Library, the town has been left without a place to borrow books. That is, until a little free library suddenly pops up, guarded by a fluffy orange cat named Mortimer. Fifth grader Evan McClelland selects two books from its shelves. Inside them he finds puzzling clues that lead him to chase down the real story behind the library fire. The book is told from multiple perspectives, including those of Evan, Mortimer, and ghost librarian Al, who perished in the blaze and is responsible for the upkeep of the little free library. Evan’s tenacious and curious character is relatable. His relationship with likable best friend Rafe, a brave, kind boy with overprotective parents, is easily one of the most endearing parts of the story. The puzzle over the library fire, a secret involving Evan’s family, a popular writer’s connection to Martinville, and the supernatural elements are presented in ways that are just right for middle-grade readers. The pacing is strong, and the twists and turns are satisfying even if perceptive readers may catch hints of the ultimate truth along the way. Physical descriptions of the human characters are largely absent.

A page-turner with striking characters and a satisfying puzzle at its heart. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2023

ISBN: 9781250838810

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023


From the Mouse Watch series , Vol. 1

A fun little adventure brimming with Disney intellectual-property synergy.

A young mouse earns her place among a secret society of world-savers.

Bernadette is a small rodent with big ambitions: joining the Mouse Watch, an elite team of mice that protect the world from evil while keeping themselves secret from humans. Bernie has long dreamed of joining her idol, Gadget Hackwrench (the female lead of Disney’s popular cartoon Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers), and going on gizmo-filled, adrenaline-fueled adventures. As a new recruit of the Watch, Bernie befriends Jarvis, a sensitive rat with puzzle-solving skills to spare. The two rodents flit from set piece to set piece, uncovering a dastardly plot concocted by the devilish Dr. Thornpaw that could turn the world upside down. Readers familiar with Rescue Rangers will find similar rhythms here: a precise blend of jokes, action, and plucky young heroes ambitious to prove themselves. The novel is smartly paced, keeping readers pushing forward but with just enough assurance that everything will turn out OK in the end. It’s a comfort read, one that tees up a sequel in its final pages and points back just enough to Rescue Rangers that young readers interested in exploring more of this world won’t be disappointed (provided their families have subscribed to Disney +).

A fun little adventure brimming with Disney intellectual-property synergy. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-05218-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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