MOUNTAIN POSE

The school year begins tenuously as 12-year-old Ellie Dunklee continues to grieve for her mother who died seven years ago and as her art-professor father seeks tenure. No one knows what to expect when Ellie’s grandmother, Aurelia, dies suddenly and bequeaths her Vermont farm and a suitcase full of diaries to Ellie. Aurelia was regarded as a heartless woman, even disowned by her children, so the family cannot help but wonder what diabolical plan is behind Aurelia’s gift to Ellie, but she delves into the diaries for the answer. They reveal a long history of abuse toward women and young children, inherited by each generation, including Aurelia. After learning the truth, the farm, once a place of trepidation for Ellie, becomes a symbol of peace and a setting to finally put the past to rest. This novel, like many of Wilson’s others (Flapjack Waltzes, 1998, etc.), tackles family hardships and how they’re overcome. The author astutely knows how to engage readers’ empathy, and her use of diaries written in secret codes (which she explains in the author’s note) will pique readers’ interest. Sympathetic characters and sensitive storytelling will show readers that, if understood and forgiven, family cycles of abuse can be stopped. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: April 26, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-35078-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Readers of both genders will take to this original and hilarious story—so long as they do not still believe in Santa.

THE NAUGHTY LIST

A zany take on how Christmas happens aims straight for the middle-grade humor sweet spot.

The year her father moves to North Dakota pursuing an oil job, 12-year-old Bobbie Mendoza decides to ignore Christmas. Before this, Bobbie was a normal girl, but now she oozes ’tude: her favorite color is “black. Black goes with everything. Even me.” Among the other indignities of this year, the family’s inflatable Zombie Santa attacks Bobbie—resulting in a “stupid HOT PINK cast.” Bobbie’s decision to get younger brother Tad a 3D Mega Machine by any means necessary leads to her abduction by two elves, learning the truth about the evil keeper of the Naughty List, and discovering what Tad really wants for Christmas. Along the way Bobbie meets a less-than-admirable Santa in a North Pole redolent of refried beans, along with equally unconventional reindeer led by antler-sparking Larry (not the other one). The copious illustrations, black-and-white cartoons reminiscent of Fry’s comic strip, “Over the Hedge,” add fun, clarity, and (oddly enough) believability to the text. Despite the female main focus, boys will enjoy the story too.  References to butts, farts, and lead reindeer Larry’s incontinence will cause mirth and the occasional guffaw.

Readers of both genders will take to this original and hilarious story—so long as they do not still believe in Santa. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-235475-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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