Suspenseful, fast-paced, and brief enough to engage even reluctant readers.

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ALONE

Freeman’s middle-grade debut starts with a wallop and carries on from there.

Twelve-year-old Madeleine Albright Harrison is inadvertently left behind when her whole region is abruptly evacuated in the night. Although there had been hints of unrest, she has no real idea why everyone left or when—perhaps if—they’ll ever come back. At first, there’s still electricity and running water, but as days turn into weeks and then months, utilities fail, and Madeleine comes to realize that she’s truly on her own. A Colorado winter will be coming soon enough. After rescuing a neighbor’s dog, her only companion, she becomes increasingly sophisticated in her survival efforts, collecting food and water, learning how to light a fire in her father’s woodstove and, bicycle helmet secured in place, teaching herself to drive a car. Not everything works. At one point she encounters but evades a vicious group of looters. Later she survives both a tornado and a wildfire that sweeps through her neighborhood. But it’s loneliness that becomes her greatest enemy and books from the local library that ultimately sustain her. Madeleine relates her own riveting, immersive story in believable detail, her increasingly sophisticated thoughts, as years pass, sweeping down spare pages in thin lines of verse in this Hatchet for a new age. Characters default to White.

Suspenseful, fast-paced, and brief enough to engage even reluctant readers. (Verse novel. 11-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6756-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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A mystery/thriller that’s equal parts heartfelt and shocking.

TEEN KILLERS CLUB

An accused murderer is thrust into an assassin training program.

Seventeen-year-old Signal Deere is serving hard time after a hazy night with her former best friend, Rose, which ended with Rose’s body in her lap, an emotional trial, and the media moniker the “Girl from Hell.” After her caseworker, Dave, assures Signal there’s no way she’ll get a successful appeal, he offers her an alternative: being shipped off to a mysterious camp and enrolled in a top-secret government training program unofficially known as the Teen Killers Club. There, Signal and other adolescent Class A felons (the most dangerous kind) undergo various drills—among them, dismembering fake corpses and dissolving flesh in acid—in preparation for eventually being used as assassins against government targets. The teens have been injected with a device remotely controlled by their trainers that will kill them if they attempt to escape the camp or otherwise disobey orders. As Signal nurses an attraction to sensitive tattooed Javier and fights her feelings for handsome sociopath Erik, she begins to piece together what really happened that night with Rose. Sparks crafts a page-turner with a disturbingly unusual premise, snappy dialogue, and characters that go deeper than their heinous crimes. Signal and Erik are assumed White; love interest Javier is cued as Latinx, and there is some diversity in the supporting cast.

A mystery/thriller that’s equal parts heartfelt and shocking. (Thriller. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-229-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Like its bestselling progenitors, a nonstop spinoff afroth with high tech, spectacular magic, and silly business.

THE FOWL TWINS

From the Fowl Twins series , Vol. 1

With their big brother Artemis off to Mars, 11-year-old twins Myles and Beckett are swept up in a brangle with murderous humans and even more dangerous magical creatures.

Unsurprisingly, the fraternal Irish twins ultimately prove equal to the challenge—albeit with help from, Colfer as omniscient narrator admits early on, a “hugely improbable finale.” Following the coincidental arrival on their island estate of two denizens of the subterranean fairy realm in the persons of a tiny but fearsome troll and a “hybrid” pixie-elf, or “pixel,” police trainee, the youngest Fowls immediately find themselves in the sights of both Lord Teddy Bleedham-Drye, a ruthless aristocrat out to bag said troll for its immorality-conferring venom, and Sister Jeronima Gonzalez-Ramos de Zárate, black-ops “nunterrogation” and knife specialist for ACRONYM, an intergovernmental fairy-monitoring organization. Amid the ensuing whirl of captures, escapes, trickery, treachery, and gunfire (none of which proves fatal…or at least not permanently), the twins leverage their complementary differences to foil and exasperate both foes: Myles being an Artemis mini-me who has dressed in black suits since infancy and loves coming up with and then “Fowlsplaining” his genius-level schemes; and Beckett, ever eager to plunge into reckless action and nearly nonverbal in English but with an extraordinary gift for nonhuman tongues. In the end they emerge triumphant, though threatened with mind wipe if they ever interfere in fairy affairs again. Yeah, right. Human characters seem to be default white; “hybrid” is used to describe nonhuman characters of mixed heritage.

Like its bestselling progenitors, a nonstop spinoff afroth with high tech, spectacular magic, and silly business. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04375-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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