Coldhearted

In Matthews’ debut supernatural YA novel, a teenage Southern belle attempts to fit into a new environment—but she still stands out for one menacing soul.
After her mother and father die in a gruesome car accident, Edie St. John goes to live with her uncle Landon, a famous horror novelist in the small town of Grimsby. Driving to her first day of school, she gets lost and pulls over at a mansion in the woods. After seeing a figure walking past one of the windows, she knocks and asks for help; no one answers, so Edie lets herself in. Suddenly, she sees flashes and hears noises that seem to be hallucinations, and the door locks behind her. After a wicked, disembodied voice harasses her, she frantically tries to escape the manor, until the front door unlocks on its own. A dreamy classmate named Mason, sent by the principal, escorts Edie to school, and sparks fly between them. But although Edie is free from the mansion, it later becomes clear that she’s also freed something else. During her first day of classes, Edie’s English instructor seemingly has a panic attack, and her male psychology instructor seems shamelessly enamored of her. She soon realizes that a spirit from the estate is influencing the people around her. But just as Edie begins to make this connection, the spirit shows himself as a handsome, well-groomed young man. It turns out that he attached himself to Edie as she left the mansion and has since been watching her every move. Thanks to this fact, he’s becoming stronger and more corporeal. As his infatuation grows, so does the potential danger facing Edie’s peers, including her darling Mason. The plot begins well, with the potential for compelling twists. However, it soon escalates into chaos, particularly as ghosts’ restrictions and limitations seem like afterthoughts. Certain spirits cannot communicate with others, for example, or are restricted to specific areas, which often comes off as more convenient than mysterious. Meanwhile, the narrative unnecessarily repeats some details, such as the fact that Edie is always cold. Such repetitions seem amateurish, as they hinder readers’ imaginations.
An occasionally endearing but largely unfocused YA ghost story.

Pub Date: April 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499285772

Page Count: 582

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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