JACOB TWO-TWO'S FIRST SPY CASE

Third in a series (Jacob Two-Two and the Dinosaur, o.p., and Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang, 1994) about an eight-year-old nicknamed ``Two-Two'' because, as the youngest of five children, he must say everything twice before anyone pays any attention to him. In this adventure Jacob enlists the aid of his new neighbor, X. Barnaby Dinglebat, Master Spy, to foil the gluttonous headmaster I.M. Greedyguts, who has turned over his school's catering contract to the notorious miser Perfectly Loathsome Leo Louse in order to profit from kickbacks. Richler mines the same child-as-underdog- persecuted-by-revolting-and-hypocritical-adults vein that Roald Dahl so richly exploited, without Dahl's felicity of language and gift for fantasy. Instead, grossness and gimmicks (a chapter printed in mirror-writing, a card trick explained in an afterword) will sustain interest. Jacob's role in the plot is confined largely to enduring indignities and following orders, for Mr. Dinglebat, Jacob's father, and a trio of craven cops nail the bad guys. (b&w illustrations, not seen, glossary) (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 7, 1997

ISBN: 0-374-33659-8

Page Count: -

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1997

THE MYSTERIOUS MESSENGER

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

EDGAR ALLAN'S OFFICIAL CRIME INVESTIGATION NOTEBOOK

A mystery, a school story, sibling rivalry and the loss of a pet blend surprisingly well in this engaging chapter book. Charmingly awkward fifth grader Edgar Allan decides to solve a series of minor thefts that are plaguing his teacher, Ms. Herschel. Clues are plentiful—and rhymed—but the competition to solve them is fierce. Edgar’s nemesis, Patrick Chen, seems to have the inside track since his dad works in forensics. Edgar, however, finds that the friends he makes along the way provide the winning edge. Including transcripts of Edgar’s ingenuous interviews as well as poems written by a number of class members in her narrative, Amato provides a clear picture of both social and family dynamics while keeping the story moving smoothly along. The author’s characteristic humor is somewhat muted, but examples of amusing wordplay abound. Some readers may guess the identity of the culprit more quickly than Edgar and his friends do, but whodunit is not really the point. Solving puzzles, making friends and learning to see the world more clearly are the true aims of this adventure. (Mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2271-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

Close Quickview