A poetically told story with a fairy-tale feel.

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PARIS FOR TWO

During her father’s one-year sabbatical, 12-year-old Petunia Beanly moves to Paris with her parents and beautiful older sister.

Atmospheric and charming, Stone’s intricately designed novel tells three interlocking tales: Petunia in present-day Paris; what happened between Petunia and her crush, Windel, in the near past; and the story of the building concierge and her grandmother that takes place during the Nazi occupation of France. (All the major characters are white.) This skillful interweaving, nicely knotted together by a hidden doll’s dress, creates a tremendous narrative drive, and readers will be whipping the pages to find out what happened. Petunia, who’s funny (sometimes inadvertently), feels like a real 12-year-old, and she turns out to be a generous and keen-eyed storyteller, peppering her narration with the agonies of little-sisterhood and the perfectly observed odd detail. The heart of the story is the relationship between Petunia and her 14-year-old sister, Ava, and it’s completely credible, clearly set up and believably resolved in a way that feels heartfelt and true. Not so the relationship between Petunia and her thoughtless mother. It too is well-established but then works itself out in an unbelievable eye-blink, which may leave readers befuddled. Although annoying, it’s still a minor flaw in an otherwise delightful novel.

A poetically told story with a fairy-tale feel. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-44362-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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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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An extraordinary and timely piece of writing.

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HARBOR ME

Just before she begins seventh grade, Haley tells the story of the previous school year, when she and five other students from an experimental classroom were brought together.

Each has been bullied or teased about their difficulties in school, and several face real challenges at home. Haley is biracial and cared for by her white uncle due to the death of her African-American mother and her white father’s incarceration. Esteban, of Dominican heritage, is coping with his father’s detention by ICE and the possible fracturing of his family. It is also a time when Amari learns from his dad that he can no longer play with toy guns because he is a boy of color. This reveals the divide between them and their white classmate, Ashton. “It’s not fair that you’re a boy and Ashton’s a boy and he can do something you can’t do anymore. That’s not freedom,” Haley says. They support one another, something Haley needs as she prepares for her father’s return from prison and her uncle’s decision to move away. Woodson delivers a powerful tale of community and mutual growth. The bond they develop is palpable. Haley’s recorder is both an important plot element and a metaphor for the power of voice and story. The characters ring true as they discuss issues both personal and global. This story, told with exquisite language and clarity of narrative, is both heartbreaking and hopeful.

An extraordinary and timely piece of writing. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-25252-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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