Enjoy a scoop of ice cream instead.


From the Orchard series , Vol. 1

A slight mystery casts a shadow over New Amity.

Sarah and Lizzie are 11-year-old BFFs in a small New Hampshire town where Lizzie’s family owns an orchard. This summer, to their great delight, they get to run the ice cream stand. If they net $5,000, they will have enough money for their dream: a Halloween zombie hayride. Things start to go awry for Sarah when twins Peter and Olive show up and join the formerly two-person team. Sarah frets constantly that Lizzie will no longer be her friend; sharing is an unwelcome thought. Then a crisis occurs when the ice cream earnings disappear from the safe. Atwood characterizes her cast with descriptive but underdeveloped diversity. Sarah’s grandparents are from Iran, and she has “beige-brown skin.” Lizzie has “pale skin.” The twins have “huge brown eyes, medium-dark-brown skin, and curly hair,” and their two dads are Mr. and Mr. Wu. The whole town is something of a multicultural Platonic ideal. Hakeem observes Ramadan, and Aaron wears an apron that reads “KISS ME, I’M JEWISH.” Sveta and Dani Alvarez are a local power couple. None of the children use cellphones or computers. Readers may very well ponder why a town that holds Sunday morning Community Spirit meetings is so gung-ho to finance a Halloween activity and not a worthy cause. Digitized line drawings introduce each chapter in this first of a series for each season.

Enjoy a scoop of ice cream instead. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9047-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff


From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Warmhearted cross-cultural friendship for a refugee on distant shores: both necessary and kind.


In 1938, a Jewish refugee from Poland joins her father in small-town Cuba.

After three years abroad, Papa’s saved only enough money to send for one of his children. Thus Esther boards the steamship alone even though she’s not quite 12. Cuba is a constant surprise: Her father’s an itinerant peddler and not a shopkeeper; they live as the only Jews in a tiny village; and she’s allowed to wear sandals and go bare-legged in the heat. But the island is also a constant joy. Nearly everyone Esther meets is generous beyond their means. She adores her new trade as a dressmaker, selling her creations in Havana to earn money to bring over the rest of the family. In glowing letters to her sister back in Poland, Esther details how she’s learning Spanish through the poems of José Martí. She introduces her sister to her beloved new friends: a White doctor’s wife and her vegetarian, atheist husband; a Black, Santería-following granddaughter of an ex-slave; a Chinese Cuban shopkeeper’s nephew. Esther’s first year in Cuba is marked by the calendar of Jewish holidays, as she wonders if she can be both Cuban and a Jew. As the coming war looms in Europe, she and her friends find solidarity, standing together against local Nazis and strike breakers. An author’s note describes how the story was loosely inspired by the author’s own family history.

Warmhearted cross-cultural friendship for a refugee on distant shores: both necessary and kind. (bibliography) (Historical fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-51647-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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