Smooth writing, appealing pictures, and (mostly) mild action create a pleasant enough package, but it’s still likely to be a...

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DIGBY O'DAY AND THE GREAT DIAMOND ROBBERY

From the Digby O'Day series

Following series opener Digby O’Day in the Fast Lane (2014), Hughes and Vulliamy’s canine duo are off on another adventure, this time featuring a classy seaside hotel, a secret passage, a singing starlet with a taste for shiny jewels, and a pair of (feline) cat burglars.  

As before, there’s an old-fashioned feel to both text and pictures. When Digby tells Percy about their upcoming trip, the smaller dog is troubled because the only dinner jacket he owns “belonged to my Uncle Gus [and it’s] moth-eaten and has a couple of gravy stains….” Soon enough they are on the road, and the plot rolls along briskly, if coincidentally, from a near miss with a large, dark car (license plate “Bad 2”) to their ignominious arrival at the hotel and serendipitous rescue of a fellow beach walker. Next come the glamorous entrance of Peaches Meow, a robbery at the hotel, and, finally, a visit to a local home that includes a trip down through a tunnel to a smugglers’ cave. Vignettes, single-, and double-page illustrations, created with pencil, ink, and digital collage, provide clues and amplify the mild humor. Emerging readers may nonetheless struggle with some of the sophisticated vocabulary and the unfamiliar setting.

Smooth writing, appealing pictures, and (mostly) mild action create a pleasant enough package, but it’s still likely to be a bit twee for some readers. (map, authors’ note, quiz, first chapter of Digby O’Day Up, Up, and Away) (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7445-8

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Returning fans will be happy to see their friends, but this outing's unlikely to win them new ones.

BOA CONSTRUCTOR

From the The Binder of Doom series , Vol. 2

In the second installment of the Binder of Doom series, readers will reconnect with Alexander Bopp, who leads the Super Secret Monster Patrol, a group of mutant children who protect the citizens of their beloved town of Stermont.

His friends Nikki and Rip rejoin him to add new monsters and adventures to their ever growing binder of monsters. As in series opener Brute-Cake (2019), Alexander and his friends attend the local library’s summer program, this time for “maker-camp.” They are assigned a Maker Challenge, in which each camper is to “make a machine that performs a helpful task”; meanwhile, mechanical equipment is being stolen all over Stermont. Unfortunately, the pacing and focus of the book hop all over the place. The titular boa constructor (a two-headed maker-minded snake and the culprit behind the thefts) is but one of many monsters introduced here, appearing more than two-thirds of the way through the story—just after the Machine Share-Time concludes the maker-camp plotline. (Rip’s “most dangerous” invention does come in handy at the climax.) The grayscale illustrations add visuals that will keep early readers engaged despite the erratic storyline; they depict Alexander with dark skin and puffy hair and Nikki and Rip with light skin. Monster trading cards are interleaved with the story.

Returning fans will be happy to see their friends, but this outing's unlikely to win them new ones. (Paranormal adventure. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-31469-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

AFTER ALL I'VE DONE

A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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More sentimental even than Staake’s earlier My Pet Book (2014), but the shiny metaphor is well-intentioned and the nod to...

THE BOOK OF GOLD

A lifelong quest slowly transforms a stolidly incurious Brooklyn lad into an educated, well-traveled geezer.

A dedicated nonreader, young Isaac Gutenberg turns up his nose at the tantalizing facts his book-loving parents dangle before him until a mysterious little old lady tells him about a legendary volume that not only contains the answers to every question ever asked, but when opened “turns to solid gold.” As years pass and Isaac eagerly riffles through every book he finds, his unalloyed greed changes to curiosity: “Why don’t the pyramids have windows?” “Who invented pizza?” “How did the number eight get its name?” After scouring the world’s book shelves, he ultimately comes to realize that the search itself has given him “a long life filled with wonder.” Bronze-toned, retro-style views of New York, India, and other locales are bookended between 1935 and present-day visits to idealized but recognizable versions of the New York Public Library’s Main Reading Room. There (in an act that would in real life get him ejected if not arrested), old Isaac sidles up to an unattended young patron to pass on the glittering legend. Isaac and most of the other figures are white, but Staake diversifies the skin tones of street crowds and readers in the overseas and later scenes.

More sentimental even than Staake’s earlier My Pet Book (2014), but the shiny metaphor is well-intentioned and the nod to libraries is well-taken. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-51077-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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