Zany and thoughtful; an overt but fun parable.



A madcap preteen quest offers a serious message in this children’s novel.

In the town of Embleton, it is the day of the Splitting, a ritual where 10-year-old Tipple and all of the other kids his age from the eastern townships will be categorized according to their abilities and limitations. The Splitting is centuries-old. It has pigeonholed generation after generation, restricting children’s options and snuffing out their potentials. Tipple is an imaginative, adventurous boy. He doesn’t yet know what his future might be and doesn’t need it mandated for him. He and his friend Shammy don’t want to be separated. They see their differences as a strength and don’t wish to be stopped from staging make-believe exploits inspired by the legendary wizard Poopy Patinski. Thankfully, excitingly, the Splitting this year is interrupted. Embleton’s most sacred, powerful artifact, the Green Egg, has been stolen by Moo Moo Chickens, and it is up to the 10-year-olds to recover it from deep within the Forest of Enzar. While the other kids are arguing and trying to form themselves into groups, Tipple and Shammy set off. Soon they are in the thick of adventure, confronting Attack Squirrels, robot grannies, and, of course, Moo Moo Chickens. Will Tipple and Shammy retrieve the Green Egg and demonstrate to the eastern townships the wrongness of the Splitting? In this fifth installment of a series, Graham (The Revenge of the Moo Moo Chickens, 2011, etc.) uses his story to promote positive life lessons and isn’t afraid to put them up front. Tipple is often an authorial mouthpiece, not just narrating out loud in the first person, but also thinking through the morals of the tale (and indeed delivering them in dialogue, irrespective of how artificial this sounds). The author is not the smoothest of writers. His tenses sometimes jump tracks—“We did everything together, which would include the Splitting. I hope we ended up in the same group as I couldn’t imagine doing the Splitting without him”—and on several occasions, he has Tipple repeat himself. But such deficiencies are hard to frown upon in view of the book’s high-spirited celebration of self-worth. Tipple and Shammy are just the right sort of cool/uncool. The tale’s throwaway references (like Pickle Weasels and Wangle-beavers) alone should be enough to delight young readers.

Zany and thoughtful; an overt but fun parable.

Pub Date: June 7, 2018


Page Count: 101

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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