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Terrifically entertaining.

Uninvited guests demand new survival skills from the McCready sisters in this follow-up to Pine Island Home (2020).

The school year is about to start when Mrs. Weatherspoon, who cared for the girls in Borneo after their parents’ death, comes to visit, upsetting the equilibrium. She arrives with another church lady, Jo Menzies, and everyone soon finds themselves towed along in Jo’s manipulative, overbearing wake. At 15, Fiona can’t relinquish the burden of being in charge of her family, shying away from their guardian Al’s willingness to pay for things. Thirteen-year-old Marlin has yet to realize her ambition to publish her cookbook. Ten-year-old Natasha’s contemplative approach to understanding the world manifests itself in a surprising way. And 8-year-old Charlie has an optimistic naïveté in the face of all this fierce independence. Jo is self-absorbed and almost comically evil in her disregard for everyone but herself. Horvath skewers those who try to wield power over others, using diet or religion or opinions as cudgels. As frustrated Fiona and Marlin find themselves feeling impotent rage, they also gain an understanding of what it means to be—and stand up for—oneself. Everyone presents as white. Horvath keeps the pace captivating in this domestic drama as she demonstrates that life’s ups and downs are inevitable. Neither certainty nor confirmation of beliefs is forthcoming—there are few comeuppances for bad behavior—but what emerges is a compelling case for self-reliance, creativity, and kindness.

Terrifically entertaining. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2023

ISBN: 9780823452958

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high...

Two parallel stories, one of a Syrian boy from Aleppo fleeing war, and another of a white American boy, son of a NATO contractor, dealing with the challenges of growing up, intersect at a house in Brussels.

Ahmed lost his father while crossing the Mediterranean. Alone and broke in Europe, he takes things into his own hands to get to safety but ends up having to hide in the basement of a residential house. After months of hiding, he is discovered by Max, a boy of similar age and parallel high integrity and courage, who is experiencing his own set of troubles learning a new language, moving to a new country, and being teased at school. In an unexpected turn of events, the two boys and their new friends Farah, a Muslim Belgian girl, and Oscar, a white Belgian boy, successfully scheme for Ahmed to go to school while he remains in hiding the rest of the time. What is at stake for Ahmed is immense, and so is the risk to everyone involved. Marsh invites art and history to motivate her protagonists, drawing parallels to gentiles who protected Jews fleeing Nazi terror and citing present-day political news. This well-crafted and suspenseful novel touches on the topics of refugees and immigrant integration, terrorism, Islam, Islamophobia, and the Syrian war with sensitivity and grace.

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high values in the face of grave risk and succeed in drawing goodwill from others. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-30757-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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