A totally satisfying third round of bonding à la Knightley (you know, with kidnapping, sleuthing, disguises, and murder).

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3 OF A KIND

From the Knightley & Son series , Vol. 3

Sunblock protects Anglo pallor from the unrelenting Western sun, but it doesn’t do much for fending off the Combination’s villainy.

Darkus has turned his back on the detecting life after losing his canine companion in the previous book (K-9, 2015) and now occupies himself with social media and (gasp) parties. He’s forced back into the family business when beloved housekeeper Bogna is kidnapped by the Combination. On a Bogna-recovery mission, Darkus, father Alan, and stepsister Tilly travel from London to Las Vegas via an eventful series of detours. Tragedy has shaped their lives, and as they follow a trail of Combination crumbs, they could be galloping headlong into more. This episode has more of a cinematic Fleming flavor than the earlier Conan Doyle–esque adventures: there are gadgets galore, action-filled brushes with death, and show-stopping settings. Though cast familiars return, there’s the welcome, albeit brief, addition of a Knightley & Son doppelgänger—African-American father-and-son investigators in Los Angeles. With more adults populating the book than teens, it’s Darkus and Tilly who really keep the pages turning. Though it’s a mission to save Bogna and cripple the Combination, the crux of Darkus’ purpose is to reunite his parents, while Tilly seeks the truth behind her mother’s death—an answer for which neither she nor Darkus is prepared.

A totally satisfying third round of bonding à la Knightley (you know, with kidnapping, sleuthing, disguises, and murder). (Mystery. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61963-830-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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Uneven pacing and clunky writing undermine this examination of trauma and PTSD.

IF WE WERE GIANTS

Matthews, of the Dave Matthews Band, and co-author Smith offer a fantasy that explores the damage done by violence inflicted by one people against another.

Ten-year-old Kirra lives in an idyllic community hidden for generations inside a dormant volcano. When she and her little brother make unwise choices that help bring the violent, spindly, gray-skinned Takers to her community—with devastating results—Kirra feels responsible and leaves the volcano. Four years later, Kirra’s been adopted into a family of Tree Folk that live in the forest canopy. Though there are many Tree Folk, individual families care for their own and are politely distant from others. Kirra, suffering from (unnamed) PTSD, evades her traumatic memories by avoiding what she calls “Memory Traps,” but when the Takers arrive in the forest, she must face her trauma and attempt to make a community of the Tree Folk if they’re to survive. Although Kirra’s struggles through trauma are presented with sympathy and realistically rendered, some characters’ choices are so patently foolish they baldly read like the plot devices they are. Additionally, much preparation goes into one line of defense while other obvious factors are completely ignored, further pushing the story’s credibility. Kirra is brown skinned, as is her first family; Tree Folk appear not to be racially homogenous; and the Takers are all gray skinned.

Uneven pacing and clunky writing undermine this examination of trauma and PTSD. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-7871-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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