A wonderfully inventive, rich, and engaging tale.



A girl combats criminals with the help of a phantom and a mechanical giant in this first novel in a YA historical-fantasy series.

It’s 1899, and child-stealing gangsters roam the mean streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Nevertheless, 13-year-old Abigail Reid usually navigates the city alone since her busy father works three jobs and her mother is deceased. While returning home late one night, Abigail is attacked by the members of the Longshadows gang. Things look dire for the girl, but two unusual figures come to her rescue and defeat her assailants: Little Wade and Watchtower. The first is a “young, slightly blue” boy—who is, in fact, a ghost—and the second is a gigantic, “whirring, clicking, clanking, hissing, knocking, popping, grinding” intelligent mechanism. According to their business card, they’ve been “Protecting New York City’s Children since 1831,” free of charge. As their new client, Abigail receives protection and guidance for safe travel. But the duo has a larger plan to manipulate the gangs into fighting each other, using Abigail as bait (with her permission). The girl bravely helps to spring the trap and joins several resulting fights—not just to defeat the gangs but also the mastermind (or masterminds) behind them. In his debut, March tells a fantastically multifarious fantasy story that includes elements of crime and adventure, steampunk, and the supernatural, and a coming-of-age quest. To some, the violence may, like Poe’s stories, be considered “too sinister and chilling for youth”—although Abigail praises those tales as “magnificent and incredibly imaginative,” which certainly applies to this novel, as well. On balance, its story is deeply concerned with kindness and community. Explanations can be prolix, and the multipart conclusion extends beyond what feels like the natural climax. However, in such a splendidly entertaining book, these are mere quibbles.

A wonderfully inventive, rich, and engaging tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73514-331-6

Page Count: 382

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Who can't love a story about a Nigerian-American 12-year-old with albinism who discovers latent magical abilities and saves the world? Sunny lives in Nigeria after spending the first nine years of her life in New York. She can't play soccer with the boys because, as she says, "being albino made the sun my enemy," and she has only enemies at school. When a boy in her class, Orlu, rescues her from a beating, Sunny is drawn in to a magical world she's never known existed. Sunny, it seems, is a Leopard person, one of the magical folk who live in a world mostly populated by ignorant Lambs. Now she spends the day in mundane Lamb school and sneaks out at night to learn magic with her cadre of Leopard friends: a handsome American bad boy, an arrogant girl who is Orlu’s childhood friend and Orlu himself. Though Sunny's initiative is thin—she is pushed into most of her choices by her friends and by Leopard adults—the worldbuilding for Leopard society is stellar, packed with details that will enthrall readers bored with the same old magical worlds. Meanwhile, those looking for a touch of the familiar will find it in Sunny's biggest victories, which are entirely non-magical (the detailed dynamism of Sunny's soccer match is more thrilling than her magical world saving). Ebulliently original. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-01196-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel.


A Holocaust tale with a thin “Hansel and Gretel” veneer from the author of The Devil’s Arithmetic (1988).

Chaim and Gittel, 14-year-old twins, live with their parents in the Lodz ghetto, forced from their comfortable country home by the Nazis. The siblings are close, sharing a sign-based twin language; Chaim stutters and communicates primarily with his sister. Though slowly starving, they make the best of things with their beloved parents, although it’s more difficult once they must share their tiny flat with an unpleasant interfaith couple and their Mischling (half-Jewish) children. When the family hears of their impending “wedding invitation”—the ghetto idiom for a forthcoming order for transport—they plan a dangerous escape. Their journey is difficult, and one by one, the adults vanish. Ultimately the children end up in a fictional child labor camp, making ammunition for the German war effort. Their story effectively evokes the dehumanizing nature of unremitting silence. Nevertheless, the dense, distancing narrative (told in a third-person contemporaneous narration focused through Chaim with interspersed snippets from Gittel’s several-decades-later perspective) has several consistency problems, mostly regarding the relative religiosity of this nominally secular family. One theme seems to be frustration with those who didn’t fight back against overwhelming odds, which makes for a confusing judgment on the suffering child protagonists.

Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-25778-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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