Still howling good fun, though the series’ big Reveal doesn’t seem any closer than before.


From the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series , Vol. 3

Resilient as ever, in the third installment of Wood’s deliciously melodramatic Victorian mystery teenage governess Penelope Lumley takes on threats to her wolfish young charges that include a hustler after the Ashton fortune.

The unexpected sighting of an ostrich among the larks and thrushes in the woods near Ashton Place heralds the arrival of bluff Admiral Albert Faucet (“That’s faw-say, my good man. Not faucet”). Once he meets the three feral children Penelope is charged with training up to be human, Faucet’s scheme to finance the introduction of ostrich racing to the British Isles by marrying the Dowager Lady Ashton is transformed to visions of wolf racing and sideshow exhibitions. Fortunately Penelope, proud graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, is not only up to that challenge but numerous others. These range from actually riding the aforementioned ostrich and meeting a pack of oversize, strangely intelligent wolves (if wolves they be) to orchestrating a climactic séance designed to contact the Dowager’s first husband, drowned (purportedly) in the medicinal tar pits at Gooden-Baden. Along with gleefully pitching her plucky protagonist into one crisis after another, punctuated by authorial disquisitions on similes, rhetorical questions, contagious punning and other linguistic follies, the author slips in a few more seemingly significant Clues to the Ashtons’ curious history and Penelope’s apparent involvement in it.

Still howling good fun, though the series’ big Reveal doesn’t seem any closer than before. (Melodrama. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0061791185

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood.


In this prequel to Newbery Award–winning The Crossover (2014), Alexander revisits previous themes and formats while exploring new ones.

For Charlie Bell, the future father of The Crossover’s Jordan and Josh, his father’s death alters his relationship with his mother and causes him to avoid what reminds him of his dad. At first, he’s just withdrawn, but after he steals from a neighbor, his mother packs a reluctant Charlie off to his grandparents near Washington, D.C., for the summer. His grandfather works part-time at a Boys and Girls Club where his cousin Roxie is a star basketball player. Despite his protests, she draws him into the game. His time with his grandparents deepens Charlie’s understanding of his father, and he begins to heal. “I feel / a little more normal, / like maybe he’s still here, / … in a / as long as I remember him / he’s still right here / in my heart / kind of way.” Once again, Alexander has given readers an African-American protagonist to cheer. He is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, especially two brilliant female characters, his friend CJ and his cousin Roxie, as well as his feisty and wise granddaddy. Music and cultural references from the late 1980s add authenticity. The novel in verse is enhanced by Anyabwile’s art, which reinforces Charlie’s love for comics.

An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood. (Historical verse fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-86813-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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The Baudelaire children—Violet, 14, Klaus, 12, and baby Sunny—are exceedingly ill-fated; Snicket extracts both humor and horror from their situation, as he gleefully puts them through one terrible ordeal after another. After receiving the news that their parents died in a fire, the three hapless orphans are delivered into the care of Count Olaf, who “is either a third cousin four times removed, or a fourth cousin three times removed.” The villainous Count Olaf is morally depraved and generally mean, and only takes in the downtrodden yet valiant children so that he can figure out a way to separate them from their considerable inheritance. The youngsters are able to escape his clutches at the end, but since this is the first installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events, there will be more ghastly doings. Written with old-fashioned flair, this fast-paced book is not for the squeamish: the Baudelaire children are truly sympathetic characters who encounter a multitude of distressing situations. Those who enjoy a little poison in their porridge will find it wicked good fun. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-440766-7

Page Count: 162

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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