Would-be wordsmiths will come away with a marginally useful toolkit and, if not “hack writing of the highest order” as...

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WRITE THIS BOOK

A DO-IT-YOURSELF MYSTERY

Offering “a book written by you that’s already published,” “Bosch” follows his own title page with a blank alternative one, then goes on to sketch out a fragmentary plotline filled with options to circle and dotted lines to fill in (guaranteeing that any library copy won’t stay unmarked for long).

The “story” involves two children, A____ and Z____, who are searching for vanished writer I.B. Anonymous. In fits and starts, the author provides generic arcs for noir, fantasy and gothic stories that all lead in the end to I.B. Anonymous’ reappearance to congratulate his supposedly unwitting collaborators. With frequent pauses for technical advice, dubbed “Pseudo-intelligence,” writerly “Pseudo-assignments,” and forms for creating villains and other characters—not to mention squabbles with a smart-mouthed rabbit typist, off-topic footnotes and distractions for procrastinators—the emphasis is on amusement rather than instruction. Sample jacket-flap word lists give readers a taste of self-marketing. Two features in the appendix—the “Parental Obituary Section” and notable first lines—bridge the gap between theory and practice. Ford supplies accusatory eyes on blank pages and like visual commentary.

Would-be wordsmiths will come away with a marginally useful toolkit and, if not “hack writing of the highest order” as promised, at least a finished practice piece. (writing tips, self-awards) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: April 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-316-20781-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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This weave of perceptive, well-told tales wears its agenda with unusual grace.

WAR STORIES

Two young people of different generations get profound lessons in the tragic, enduring legacy of war.

Raised on the thrilling yarns of his great-grandpa Jacob and obsessed with both World War II and first-person–shooter video games, Trevor is eager to join the 93-year-old vet when he is invited to revisit the French town his unit had helped to liberate. In alternating chapters, the overseas trip retraces the parallel journeys of two young people—Trevor, 12, and Jacob, in 1944, just five years older—with similarly idealized visions of what war is like as they travel both then and now from Fort Benning to Omaha Beach and then through Normandy. Jacob’s wartime experiences are an absorbing whirl of hard fighting, sudden death, and courageous acts spurred by necessity…but the modern trip turns suspenseful too, as mysterious stalkers leave unsettling tokens and a series of hostile online posts that hint that Jacob doesn’t have just German blood on his hands. Korman acknowledges the widely held view of World War II as a just war but makes his own sympathies plain by repeatedly pointing to the unavoidable price of conflict: “Wars may have winning sides, but everybody loses.” Readers anticipating a heavy-handed moral will appreciate that Trevor arrives at a refreshingly realistic appreciation of video games’ pleasures and limitations. As his dad puts it: “War makes a better video game….But if you’re looking for a way to live, I’ll take peace every time.”

This weave of perceptive, well-told tales wears its agenda with unusual grace. (Fiction/historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-29020-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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