THE GAME OF SUNKEN PLACES

From the Norumbegan Quartet series , Vol. 1

When wise-cracking Gregory and brainy Brian go to Vermont to visit Gregory’s “strange . . . [p]robably insane” Uncle Max, they “couldn’t know what an adventure it would be.” Once at Grendle Manor and properly clad in knickerbockers, the two boys find a mildewed game board—the eponymous Game of Sunken Places—that mirrors the local landscape and takes on a real and potentially lethal life of its own. A sinister stranger, a genial troll, a fussy, very non-human game coordinator, and numerous monsters variously aid and block their progress through the game, which, it seems, is central to a cosmic contest between two spirit races. Sound confusing? It is, and purposely so. Gregory and Brian bumble and puzzle their way along with the reader, gradually discovering the many overlaid constructs and realities that make up the game. As with so many games, the fun of the novel is not in the ending but in the getting there, and readers willing to suspend every ounce of disbelief will be rewarded by this smart, consciously complex offering that never panders to its middle-grade audience. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-439-41660-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2004

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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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Still, its revelations make a fine yarn. (Fiction. 10- 14)

WALK TWO MOONS

During the six days it takes Sal's paternal grandparents to drive her west to Idaho in time for her mother's birthday, she tells them about her friend Phoebe—a story that, the 13-year-old comes to realize, in many ways parallels her own: Each girl had a mother who left home without warning.

The mystery of Phoebe's more conventional mother's disappearance and its effects on her family and eventual explanation unfold as the journey, with its own offbeat incidents, proceeds; meanwhile, in Sal's intricate narrative, the tragic events surrounding her mother's flight are also gradually revealed. After Sal fell from a tree, her mother carried her back to the house; soon after, she bore a stillborn child. Slowly, the love between Sal's parents, her mother's inconsolable grief, and Sal's life since her departure emerge; last to surface are the painful facts that Sal has been most reluctant to face. Creech, an American who has published novels in Britain, fashions characters with humor and sensitivity, but Sal's poignant story would have been stronger without quite so many remarkable coincidences or such a tidy sum of epiphanies at the end.

Still, its revelations make a fine yarn. (Fiction. 10- 14)

Pub Date: June 30, 1994

ISBN: 978-0-06-023334-1

Page Count: 280

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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