Troubling, affecting, and ultimately uplifting, from a promising debut novelist.

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JUST UNDER THE CLOUDS

Life is not going well for Cora.

Ever since her Irish-immigrant father died six years ago, the 12-year-old, her Mexican-American mom, and her younger sister, Adare, who was “born special” and speaks little, have been living in a series of temporary homes—and now they’re in a grim Brooklyn shelter. Through it all Cora has persevered, getting her sister to and from school and charting (and climbing) the trees around where she’s lived, keeping up her father’s horticultural work. But she’s struggling in math, bullied, friendless, and, after their shelter room is ransacked, homeless. After her mom’s friend Willa takes them in, Cora begins to imagine a more stable life—but living with Willa would take away what little autonomy her mom still has. Cora makes friends with a classmate who lives on a houseboat, rootless but not homeless, and each uses this friendship as a path to a more satisfying life. Cora’s first-person narrative voice occasionally strays away from age-appropriate but never enough to diminish her poignant—even desperate—situation, as she strives to provide what Adare needs while chasing her own limited dreams. Even after they move into a “placement,” a gritty complex that’s too dangerous—“somewhere you can’t go after school on your own”—to be a home, challenges realistically persist.

Troubling, affecting, and ultimately uplifting, from a promising debut novelist. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-2008-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick.

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THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON

An elderly witch, a magical girl, a brave carpenter, a wise monster, a tiny dragon, paper birds, and a madwoman converge to thwart a magician who feeds on sorrow.

Every year Elders of the Protectorate leave a baby in the forest, warning everyone an evil Witch demands this sacrifice. In reality, every year, a kind witch named Xan rescues the babies and find families for them. One year Xan saves a baby girl with a crescent birthmark who accidentally feeds on moonlight and becomes “enmagicked.” Magic babies can be tricky, so Xan adopts little Luna herself and lovingly raises her, with help from an ancient swamp monster and a chatty, wee dragon. Luna’s magical powers emerge as her 13th birthday approaches. Meanwhile, Luna’s deranged real mother enters the forest to find her daughter. Simultaneously, a young carpenter from the Protectorate enters the forest to kill the Witch and end the sacrifices. Xan also enters the forest to rescue the next sacrificed child, and Luna, the monster, and the dragon enter the forest to protect Xan. In the dramatic denouement, a volcano erupts, the real villain attempts to destroy all, and love prevails. Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces. Luna has black eyes, curly, black hair, and “amber” skin.

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-567-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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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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