A summer sleuth story that disappoints.

THE FIFTH BEETHOVEN

Fifteen-year-old Nate Crocker has his wallet stolen by someone dressed as Ludwig von Beethoven in the courtyard of a luxury building in Vancouver, British Columbia.

As consolation, he is invited to be the building’s resident pianist by the smarmy owner. Nate uses his access to the building to snoop around to find the thief, teaming up with another victim, Zandi Singh, who protests there daily against gentrification and housing displacement caused by the building’s construction. Nate also befriends a boy with autism who loves his music. Over time his impressions of his boss change as his boss expresses derogatory opinions about people with disabilities and Nate comes to understand his exploitation of people displaced by his business activities. Jackson’s book is fast paced, something accentuated by Nate’s nonlinear thought processes. He jumps from idea to idea with little explanation as to how he arrived at each conclusion. The transitions in the narrative are erratic as well. Jackson’s imagery is confusing, leaving readers unable to conjure up clear visions of the story. While Nate is presented as a promising musician, this element of the story feels underdeveloped, and the cast of secondary characters adds little to the story. A publisher’s note indicates the font was chosen to accommodate readers with dyslexia. Nate and most other characters are assumed to be White; Zandi’s name cues her as South Asian. Unfortunately, a broad generalization about people with autism is not interrogated.

A summer sleuth story that disappoints. (Mystery. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-989724-05-7

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Crwth Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.

A GIRL, A RACCOON, AND THE MIDNIGHT MOON

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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Chills and thrills aplenty.

ESCAPE GREENLAND

From the Wonder List Adventures series , Vol. 2

Two young travelers find wonder and terror on the spectacular Kangia Icefjord.

After surviving both natural hazards and hijacking by wildlife smugglers in Escape Galápagos (2019), the adventures continue for 13-year-old Ezzy Skylar and her younger brother, Luke. No sooner do they arrive with their dad in Ilulissat on Greenland’s western coast than they are embroiled in further eco-themed bad behavior. Ezzy and Luke find themselves shot at, left in a locked room, forced to make their way through a deadly iceberg field (once on foot and later by boat), and, most thrilling of all, kayaking wildly through the glacier’s interior down a meltwater tunnel. At last, however, they uncover an unethical plan to stimulate the local trade in tourists eager to see melting glaciers. Encounters with fetching sled dog puppies, impressive humpback whales, and enormous mosquitoes add lighter notes to these misadventures, and frequent references to climate change and its effects supply a unifying theme. Prager closes with notes on what is real (the science and most of the setting) and what is made up in the story. Main characters present White; some supporting characters are cued (though not named) as Inuit. The Skylar children’s judgmental statements about traditional food and hunting practices are presented with little context to help readers understand Native Greenlandic perspectives. Illustrations not seen.

Chills and thrills aplenty. (maps) (Eco-fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-943431-70-0

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Tumblehome Learning

Review Posted Online: today

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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