KNEEKNOCK RISE

Natalie Babbitt's prose is as clean as her pen line, yet unexpectable: the Mammoth Mountains "were the only point of interest in a countryside that neither rolled nor dipped but lay as flat as if it had been knocked unconscious." One is taller, decidedly more clifflike, its crest shrouded in mist—and mystery—for on stormy, rainy nights "an undiscovered creature would lift its voice and moan. . ." This is Kneeknock Rise, at its foot the village of Instep, whose inhabitants thrive on their fearsome distinction and from the fair that annually brings the envious to eat and dance. . . and tremble at the voice of the Megrimum. So that when Egan, taunted by Cousin Ada, climbs as he's thought to do, dreamed of doing. . . and returns to tell the unforbidding tale, why—"He doesn't know what he's saying." Vagabond Uncle Ott, encountered at the top, knew, and put it into the rhyme of a cat playing mouse with a string: "He didn't thank me when/ I told him he was wrong./ It's possible—just possible—/ He knew it all along." The wind-up takes longer than it need though the Megrimum restored is an exquisite bit of megrimummery. As, earlier, is Uncle Anson's kneeknock-bird clock 'killed' by disagreeable Sweetheart the cat because "the Megrimum wants them to." But Megrimum or not, Kneeknock Rise has Uncle Ott's left-behind dog Annabelle, "old and fat and beautiful" and not the coward Ada calls her. Like The Search. . . delicious.

Pub Date: May 29, 1970

ISBN: 0312370091

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1970

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Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read.

ALI CROSS

The prolific king of the beach read is back with an intergenerational mystery for the 9-to-12-year-old set.

Ali Cross, the son of Patterson’s most famous creation, African American homicide detective Alex Cross, is “starting to think the worst might have happened” to his mixed-race friend Gabriel “Gabe” Qualls, who disappeared on Dec. 21 and hasn’t been heard from as of Christmas Eve, when the book opens. Ali offers an impromptu prayer for Gabe at the pre-holiday service at his all-black church as well as an impromptu press conference outside of it as journalists and paparazzi confront Alex about his alleged coma-inducing assault of a murder suspect’s father. Then someone robs the Crosses’ home that night along with four other homes; the Crosses’ Christmas gifts are stolen. Ali, obsessed with finding Gabe and feeling that these events will distract his dad and the police from searching for him, starts his own investigation—complete with looking at some contraband footage of Gabe’s unusually loaded backpack obtained by Ali’s stepmother, also a cop—and questioning his school and gaming pals, a diverse group. Writing in Ali’s voice with occasional cutaways to third-person chapters that follow Alex, Patterson sprinkles the narrative with pop-culture references even as he takes readers through the detective process.

Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-53041-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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