NO SMALL THING

How much tragedy equals a pony? Four years ago, Nathaniel had a pony, a nice house and a Dad—but now his Dad is gone and his mother struggles to keep the family fed. When he sees an ad in the paper for a free pony, he and his two sisters set their hearts on it, but getting it brings more challenges. Subplots involving an abused horse, a rich girl, the missing dad and the strange behavior of one of Nathaniel’s sisters all promise more than they deliver, and some of the details about the pony, Smokey, and the barn where he’s kept ring false. (Among them: he’s a stallion at the outset, and his owners hand him over to the three children without ever speaking to an adult.) Nathaniel is a nuanced character but doesn’t grow within the story; the ending falls from the sky. Gorgeous writing, subtle characterizations and a few very good scenes make this book initially seem better than it is. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7636-2422-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2005

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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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MASTERPIECE

Eleven-year-old James Terik isn’t particularly appreciated in the Pompaday household. Marvin, a beetle who lives happily with his “smothering, overinvolved relatives” behind the Pompadays’ kitchen sink, has observed James closely and knows he’s something special even if the boy’s mother and stepfather don’t. Insect and human worlds collide when Marvin uses his front legs to draw a magnificent pen-and-ink miniature for James’s birthday. James is thrilled with his tiny new friend, but is horrified when his mother sees the beetle’s drawing and instantly wants to exploit her suddenly special son’s newfound talents. The web further tangles when the Metropolitan Museum of Art enlists James to help catch a thief by forging a miniature in the style of Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer. Delightful intricacies of beetle life—a cottonball bed, playing horseshoes with staples and toothpicks—blend seamlessly with the suspenseful caper as well as the sentimental story of a complicated-but-rewarding friendship that requires a great deal of frantic leg-wiggling on Marvin’s part. Murphy’s charming pen-and-ink drawings populate the short chapters of this funny, winsome novel. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8270-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2008

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