THE HIDDEN GALLERY

From the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series , Vol. 2

The plot thickens but is still far from crystallizing in this madcap sequel to The Mysterious Howling (2010). Transplanted to London while repairs are being made to manorial Ashton Place in the wake of the last episode’s disastrous climax, inexperienced but resourceful governess Penelope Lumley looks forward to shepherding her three young charges—still acquiring a veneer of civilization after having been supposedly raised in the forest by wolves—about the great city. Unsurprisingly, events quickly get out of hand. Except for the occasional self-indulgent aside (listing real but irrelevant 19th-century tourist guides, for instance), the narrative voice continues to develop, thanks to diversions into such niceties as the difference between “optimism” and “optoomuchism” and pterodomania (the study of ferns). When not digressing, the narrator keeps the plot aboil, stirring in vague warnings and (of course) references to a prophecy, characters with ambiguous identities, astonishing apparent coincidences and tasty elements such as a cast of theatrical (but also possibly real) pirates and a strange guidebook that furnishes Penelope with obviously-significant Clues to her own obscure past as well as that of the children’s. Great fun, and it wouldn’t be optoomuchstic to expect more to come. Includes frequent full-page line drawings, not seen. (Melodrama. 10-12) 

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-179112-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2011

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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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A satisfying, winning read.

Our Verdict

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BOOKED

Nick Hall is a bright eighth-grader who would rather do anything other than pay attention in class.

Instead he daydreams about soccer, a girl he likes, and an upcoming soccer tournament. His linguistics-professor father carefully watches his educational progress, requiring extra reading and word study, much to Nick’s chagrin and protest. Fortunately, his best friend, Coby, shares his passion for soccer—and, sadly, the unwanted attention of twin bullies in their school. Nick senses something is going on with his parents, but their announcement that they are separating is an unexpected blow: “it’s like a bombshell / drops / right in the center / of your heart / and it splatters / all across your life.” The stress leads to counseling, and his life is further complicated by injury and emergency surgery. His soccer dream derailed, Nick turns to the books he has avoided and finds more than he expected. Alexander’s highly anticipated follow-up to Newbery-winning The Crossover is a reflective narrative, with little of the first book’s explosive energy. What the mostly free-verse novel does have is a likable protagonist, great wordplay, solid teen and adult secondary characters, and a clear picture of the challenges young people face when self-identity clashes with parental expectations. The soccer scenes are vivid and will make readers wish for more, but the depiction of Nick as he unlocks his inner reader is smooth and believable.

A satisfying, winning read. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-57098-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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