Depth and complexity are added to great effect in this second installment.

THE MAGICIAN'S KEY

From the The Secrets of the Pied Piper series , Vol. 2

Following the events of The Peddler’s Road (2015), 12-year-old Max is desperate to return to the Summer Isle where her brother, Carter, is trapped with the children the Pied Piper led away from the town of Hamelin.

However, the only path between the lands is through a hidden and locked door. Thankfully, the white girl possesses a magical map. The key, however, proves more difficult to find. An evil magician claiming to have a Key of Everything is her only hope, but dealing with a man who employs a zombie as his butler and steals people’s souls seems like no hope at all. Max and Carter can count on the aid of trolls, goblins, and elves as well as the children of Hamelin. But the most surprising and dangerous friend is the Pied Piper himself. Chapters feature multiple story threads on both sides of the locked door. Characters are much more complex and interesting in this sequel than in the previous book, making this a definite upturn from the lackluster start to the trilogy. The intersection of magic and modernity provides an interesting forum for the discussion of racial profiling, disenfranchised individuals, and the effects of evil in the world. Able writing and storytelling weave these themes into a story that won’t disappoint.

Depth and complexity are added to great effect in this second installment. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-75526-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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This pitch-perfect contemporary novel gently explores the past’s repercussions on the present

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AS BRAVE AS YOU

Eleven-year-old Brooklynite Genie has “worry issues,” so when he and his older brother, Ernie, are sent to Virginia to spend a month with their estranged grandparents while their parents “try to figure it all out,” he goes into overdrive.

First, he discovers that Grandpop is blind. Next, there’s no Internet, so the questions he keeps track of in his notebook (over 400 so far) will have to go un-Googled. Then, he breaks the model truck that’s one of the only things Grandma still has of his deceased uncle. And he and Ernie will have to do chores, like picking peas and scooping dog poop. What’s behind the “nunya bidness door”? And is that a gun sticking out from Grandpop’s waistband? Reynolds’ middle-grade debut meanders like the best kind of summer vacation but never loses sense of its throughline. The richly voiced third-person narrative, tightly focused through Genie’s point of view, introduces both brothers and readers to this rural African-American community and allows them to relax and explore even as it delves into the many mysteries that so bedevil Genie, ranging from "Grits? What exactly are they?" to, heartbreakingly, “Why am I so stupid?” Reynolds gives his readers uncommonly well-developed, complex characters, especially the completely believable Genie and Grandpop, whose stubborn self-sufficiency belies his vulnerability and whose flawed love both Genie and readers will cherish.

This pitch-perfect contemporary novel gently explores the past’s repercussions on the present . (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1590-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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