A darkly funny rural tale with a scary bent.


A middle-grade novel tells the story of a girl’s monstrous discovery on the family farm.

Thirteen-year-old Limphetta “Limpy” O’Malley wants nothing more than to escape her Podunk town of Flesherton and attend a prestigious school for the arts. Local legend says that her family’s potato farm is cursed—the previous owner’s barn burned down, killing the prize horses inside—but for the O’Malleys, it has been merely unprofitable. The bank is threatening to foreclose, which means the only way Limpy is going to a private school is if she manages to win a scholarship. One night, punished by her draconian father and with the imaginary encouragements of her dead mother filling her head, Limpy is moving sacks of potatoes from one side of the cellar to the other when she detects a mysterious box half-buried in the dirt: “The top was a scrollwork of runes and symbols. A tiny sarcophagus, but whatever lay inside didn’t seem very dead.” Limpy opens the rattling box with her shovel. Inside she spies four eggs of different colors that quickly hatch into strange, fuzzy creatures, like newborn mammals or birds. They’re not exactly cute, but they’re too small to be evil. At least that’s what Limpy thinks, until livestock starts to disappear around the farm. Limpy thought money was the worst of her problems, but it may turn out that she’s awakened the real curse that hangs over her family’s land. Stewart’s (The Terminals: Spark, 2014, etc.) prose is full of the grit and grime one would expect from a novel set on a potato farm (at one point, Limpy’s brother Dylan “stuffed a baby potato up his nose, plugged the free nostril and shot the potato so that it hit her chest”). With its tyrannical parents, moronic siblings, goofy monsters, and dark humor, the book summons the works of middle-grade master Roald Dahl. Young readers interested in less cuddly fare should enjoy this offbeat story of curses, creatures, and lessons on finding satisfaction in one’s place in the world.

A darkly funny rural tale with a scary bent.

Pub Date: May 18, 2017


Page Count: 166

Publisher: The Publishing House

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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A witty addition to the long-running series.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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