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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The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.


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 Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A satisfying, winning read.

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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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