Haunting, engrossing, and thoughtful.

THE IN-BETWEEN

Chicago siblings Cooper and Jess unravel a mystery involving Elena, their strange new neighbor, and a series of historical disasters.

Cooper’s been cold and withdrawn from family and friends alike ever since his parents’ marriage imploded and his father left them to start a new family. His younger sister, Jess, finds a nearly 100-year-old mystery—the Charfield railway disaster in England, where one of the dead was a boy, never identified, who was wearing a distinctive raven insignia that matches the one on Elena’s private school blazer. Digging into the raven emblem, they find it appears on items worn by unidentified bodies after disasters. The more Cooper and Jess investigate, the more impossible everything seems. Soon, the supernatural takes on a darker cast, as Jess and Cooper discover that they’re the ones in danger. The supernatural storyline’s fear is juxtaposed with Cooper’s inner turmoil. His intense emotional life is a constant grounding font of relatability, as he deals with anger, grief, and humiliation in the wake of his father’s abandonment. The increasingly dangerous supernatural mystery (with an exceptionally well-described climax) is intriguing enough to make this a page-turner, but the characters and their powerfully thematic emotional journeys are what will make the book linger. Absent most physical descriptors, characters default to White. Jess is diabetic, and their family deals with economic hardship and classism.

Haunting, engrossing, and thoughtful. (author’s note) (Supernatural mystery. 8-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-291609-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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A fantastic, heartbreaking crescendo that echoes beyond the final page.

WILLA OF DARK HOLLOW

From the Willa of the Wood series , Vol. 2

A young Faeran girl puts everything on the line to save her home and the family she loves.

Emerging from the charred ruins of the Faeran forest lair, 13-year-old green-skinned, brown-haired Willa has formed a new family with humans who care about the Great Smoky Mountain as much as she does. Unfortunately, the Sutton Lumber Company has plans to clear the forest for railroad tracks. Her White adoptive father, Nathaniel, has become a leading voice against the destruction, making him a target. After he is arrested on suspicion of murdering loggers, Willa asks for help from her Faeran clan, but they blame her for the death of their leader and subsequent loss of their old home. Even the forest itself has grown hostile as strange, deathly cold creatures attack. Adelaide, a new blond, blue-eyed friend, and Hialeah, Nathaniel’s White and Cherokee daughter, join Willa in protecting the forest, clearing Nathaniel’s name, saving the Faeran, and unraveling the mystery of the malicious beasts. This duology closer is a captivating, stirring tale of family, friendship, the environment, and our place in the world. At every turn, Willa is faced with higher stakes and decisions that are even harder to make; the consequences of each choice weigh on her heart. The gorgeous prose and imagery of the mountains will inspire in readers a deep admiration for nature and support for Willa’s fight.

A fantastic, heartbreaking crescendo that echoes beyond the final page. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-00760-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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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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