An imaginative, warmhearted, and often enjoyable tale of dangerous escapades.


In Lodge’s (The Crystal Navigator, 2014) latest middle-grade series installment, sixth-graders use high-tech wizardry to investigate a mysterious anomaly within a famous painting.

During a classroom video presentation about the Mona Lisa, Lucy Nightingale, 11, has a strange experience: “Her favorite painting seemed to be exploding before her eyes. Purple clouds swirled through the landscape, lightning ripped the sky, and Lisa was crying. Something horrible was destroying Leonardo’s portrait.” Apparently, only Sam Winter, her 11-year-old supergenius best friend, notices it, too. He diagnoses it as a “Zoom Seizure,” a “ghastly buzzing syndrome” that smashes the molecules of living things. But the painting isn’t alive…is it? The problem is perfect for SLARP—Sam and Lucy’s Anomalies Research Project—which exists to investigate weird phenomena. Luckily, Lucy’s parents have already planned a Paris vacation, which will give her a chance to visit the Louvre and, she hopes, find a way to protect the painting. Sam is tasked with tracking down a folio that may hold some answers, but first, he provides Lucy with a powerful, multifunctional gadget called a Quetzal that, among other things, can unlock any lock. At the Louvre, Lucy is surprised to see her classmate Melissa Blackwood, a frail, quiet girl who can also see the Zoom Seizure. Her efforts to steal the Mona Lisa necessitate a rescue by Lucy and eventually take both girls into the Parisian catacombs and far, far beyond. Lodge offers an intriguing blend of science, mysticism, art history, and adventure in this book. Her characters and dialogue are amusing, but they don’t lose sight of serious matters at stake—a style that’s reminiscent of such classics as Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Some events and characters, such as Wilbur, a “Wise One” in the form of a talking corgi dog, can be confusing; the series’ previous title isn’t mentioned in the front or back matter, so new readers may feel as if they’ve walked into a movie that’s already started. Also, story problems are often overcome by science that slides into anything-goes magic, such as Lucy’s ability to create things with her thoughts.

An imaginative, warmhearted, and often enjoyable tale of dangerous escapades.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9960885-6-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Wilwahren Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Although the love comes shining through, the text often confuses in straining for patterned simplicity.


A collection of parental wishes for a child.

It starts out simply enough: two children run pell-mell across an open field, one holding a high-flying kite with the line “I wish you more ups than downs.” But on subsequent pages, some of the analogous concepts are confusing or ambiguous. The line “I wish you more tippy-toes than deep” accompanies a picture of a boy happily swimming in a pool. His feet are visible, but it's not clear whether he's floating in the deep end or standing in the shallow. Then there's a picture of a boy on a beach, his pockets bulging with driftwood and colorful shells, looking frustrated that his pockets won't hold the rest of his beachcombing treasures, which lie tantalizingly before him on the sand. The line reads: “I wish you more treasures than pockets.” Most children will feel the better wish would be that he had just the right amount of pockets for his treasures. Some of the wordplay, such as “more can than knot” and “more pause than fast-forward,” will tickle older readers with their accompanying, comical illustrations. The beautifully simple pictures are a sweet, kid- and parent-appealing blend of comic-strip style and fine art; the cast of children depicted is commendably multiethnic.

Although the love comes shining through, the text often confuses in straining for patterned simplicity. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4521-2699-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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