This soft-science-fiction debut will resonate with Madeleine L’Engle fans.

A TIME TRAVELER'S THEORY OF RELATIVITY

Finn discovers his family harbors gifted time travelers whose mission, despite their best efforts, keeps ending in failure.

Finn’s birthdays—he’s nearly 13—are haunted by the loss of his twin sister, Faith, in the Dorset, Vermont, marble quarry at age 3. Now his mother’s disappeared. Finding her possessions intact at Gran’s, Finn seeks answers. A quantum physics enthusiast, he’s read about time-travel and multiple-universe theories, but what Gran has to tell him is incredible: The women in her family Travel through time, though only she and his mom Travel to the future as well as the past. Fearing his mom’s lost in time, Gran says Finn must Travel to find her. Because he’s male, he’ll need the portal created for him in a tree on Dorset Peak. A dangerous, twisty trek through past, present, and future ensues. As versions of his relatives proliferate, their accounts conflicting, Finn increasingly relies on his stalwart friend Gabi. (Gabi and her mom are of Puerto Rican heritage; other characters are presumed white.) Structured like a series opener, the novel ends abruptly, important questions sketchily answered or left unaddressed. If failure to tackle and resolve time travel’s thorny plotting challenges disappoints genre aficionados, the vivid setting and appealing characters—Finn and his quirky relatives especially—offer plenty to satisfy readers less invested in the category.

This soft-science-fiction debut will resonate with Madeleine L’Engle fans. (author’s note) (Science fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-5538-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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