A lovely, eerie adventure that balances the ancient magic with its protagonist's very real character growth

BONE JACK

In a grim season, one rural tradition seems less like a boys' romp and more like a gateway for the old powers.

This ought to be a banner year for 13-year-old Ash, finally selected as the stag boy. As the lead runner in his British town's annual Stag Chase, Ash should be preparing to race his best friend, Mark, and the other boys their age, hounds to his stag. If only the whole town weren't shattered with grief. A foot-and-mouth outbreak has devastated the area, with tragic consequences; Mark's dad hanged himself in the barn. Ash's own father, an army captain, has returned from the war—afflicted with PTSD, haunted by visions and rising alcoholism. Even the Stag Chase itself seems corrupted. Ash sees creepy crows in the woods, skulls draped in the trees, ghost stag boys, and (most uncanny) Mark living in the woods, dressed in rags and daubed with clay. The old ways are rising, Mark insists, and the stag boy's destiny will not be a happy one. In haunting, lyrical prose, Ash tries to protect himself from Bone Jack the soul-taker while learning to be a better son and friend. With a deft hand, Crowe twines the ancient folk motifs around her evocation of modern Britain—with one exception: characters’ races go unspecified, leaching it of its multicultural vigor.

A lovely, eerie adventure that balances the ancient magic with its protagonist's very real character growth . (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-17651-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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A patchy tale flickering repeatedly from light to dark and back.

TWAIN'S TREASURE

From the Phantom Files series

Alex’s ability to talk with ghosts puts him in famous company when he and his mom move to Hannibal, Missouri.

Alex, 13, is driven by bitter determination to keep his lifelong ability secret, since it’s already led to a diagnosis of schizophrenia that drove his parents apart and cost his mother a decent job, but it’s not easy. For one thing, his new friend, Bones, is a positively obsessed amateur ghost hunter, and for another, ghosts just won’t leave him alone no matter how rudely he treats them. Notable among the latter is Mark Twain himself, as acerbic and wily as he was in life, who is on the verge of involuntarily degenerating into a raging poltergeist unless Alex can find the unspecified, titular treasure. Alex’s search takes him through Clemens’ writings and tragic private life as well as many of the town’s related attractions on the way to a fiery climax in the public library. Meanwhile, Alex has an apotheosis of his own, deciding that lying to conceal his ability and his unhappy past isn’t worth the sacrifice of a valued friendship. Conveniently for the plot’s needs, Clemens and other ghosts can interact with the physical world at will. Wolfe parlays Alex’s ingrained inability to ignore ectoplasmic accosters into some amusing cross-conversations that help lighten his protagonist’s hard inner tests. The cast, living and otherwise, presents as white.

A patchy tale flickering repeatedly from light to dark and back. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-940924-29-8

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Dreaming Robot

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

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THE WORLD ENDS IN APRIL

It’s so annoying that Elle’s survivalist grandfather makes her do all these prepper drills—until she learns about the asteroid headed for Earth.

Elle’s widowed father loves his dad but can’t stand the way Grandpa Joe pulls Elle and her kid brothers into all his survivalist planning. Elle barely tolerates the surprise drills, the inspections of her bug-out bag, the insistence that she eat disgusting MREs. But one day, she comes upon a scary website in which a Harvard astrophysicist explains that an asteroid is going to hit the planet in the spring. Maybe all of Grandpa Joe’s training will come in handy after all! She enlists the help of her best (and only) friend, but Mack is the opposite of loner Elle, and he brings other students into their survival planning. With Mack, Elle finds herself leading the Hamilton Middle School Nature Club, teaching a few of her fellow students about water filters and heirloom seeds. But while Elle wants Mack laser-focused on the apocalypse and on her, he’s distracted by the swim team—and worse, by his possible transfer to the Conrad School for the Blind. Mack is both kind and adventurous, but it’s unfortunate the didactic descriptions of his assistive tools lack accuracy in this context. Elle and her family are white, Mack’s black, and their classmates are racially diverse. Watching these kids spiral into paranoia, fueled by a fraudulent internet tale of conspiracies, makes for compelling reading.

A page-turner. (author’s note, bibliography) (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6761-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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