A bit flimsy but good for some chills on a dark night. (Horror. 10-13)

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A GHOST STORY

After a family moves to a derelict old house in West Virginia, creepy things begin to happen.

Daniel, given substance by his first-person narration, is frustrated. His imperceptive, unobservant, cardboardlike parents fail to understand the difficult situation the move (forced by his father’s job loss) has placed his 7-year-old sister, Erica, and him in. Wayward kids at their backward school are bullying, Erica’s hearing a creepy voice calling her and taking refuge by focusing only on a new doll, and Daniel is gradually learning of a witch who inhabits the woods and takes little girls from their homes every 50 years—although the exact reason for that interval isn’t fully explained. At first he’s skeptical, but evidence begins to prove him wrong. With the tale periodically presented from the witch’s point of view, the potential suspense entailed by Daniel’s disbelief is completely eliminated. After Erica disappears into the woods, doesn’t come back, and is replaced by a girl who was taken 50 years ago, Daniel, faced with his grief-stricken parents’ disbelief, must confront the witch alone to recover his sister. At that point, the sense of menace rises. A too-neat happy ending undermines the potential for this story to haunt readers’ imaginations.

A bit flimsy but good for some chills on a dark night. (Horror. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-55153-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.

A GIRL, A RACCOON, AND THE MIDNIGHT MOON

This is the way Pearl’s world ends: not with a bang but with a scream.

Pearl Moran was born in the Lancaster Avenue branch library and considers it more her home than the apartment she shares with her mother, the circulation librarian. When the head of the library’s beloved statue of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay is found to be missing, Pearl’s scream brings the entire neighborhood running. Thus ensues an enchanting plunge into the underbelly of a failing library and a city brimful of secrets. With the help of friends old, uncertainly developing, and new, Pearl must spin story after compelling story in hopes of saving what she loves most. Indeed, that love—of libraries, of books, and most of all of stories—suffuses the entire narrative. Literary references are peppered throughout (clarified with somewhat superfluous footnotes) in addition to a variety of tangential sidebars (the identity of whose writer becomes delightfully clear later on). Pearl is an odd but genuine narrator, possessed of a complex and emotional inner voice warring with a stridently stubborn outer one. An array of endearing supporting characters, coupled with a plot both grounded in stressful reality and uplifted by urban fantasy, lend the story its charm. Both the neighborhood and the library staff are robustly diverse. Pearl herself is biracial; her “long-gone father” was black and her mother is white. Bagley’s spot illustrations both reinforce this and add gentle humor.

The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.   (reading list) (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6952-1

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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