An enjoyable twisty mystery and coming-of-age story.


A 12-year-old investigates suspicious circumstances surrounding a death in this middle-grade novel.

Sixth grader Sam Parsons, 12, isn’t enthused about accompanying his mother to the funeral of his great-uncle Buster. But Sam’s mom, Eva, insists, so they drive from Jacksonville, Florida, to Ashe County, North Carolina. Right away, things don’t seem right at Uncle Buster’s. He’s said to have died of a heart attack, but there are wounds on his hands, and no autopsy was performed. A fishy will leaves everything to his sisters, and they plan to sell his land for a tasteless tourist development; his books and papers have disappeared. Sam is “convinced that somebody murdered Uncle Buster. And I’m not about to let them get away with it.” Back in Jacksonville, Sam mulls over the case; meanwhile, his ambition to befriend Joey Sabatini (Joey’s father works for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sam’s favorite team) brings him into conflict with his best friend, Oscar Ruiz, and gets him in trouble at school. When Eva’s doubts grow, the family makes a return trip to North Carolina, where suspicions lead to arsenic poisoning. The clues are all there, but what do they add up to? In her second children’s book, Koehler offers a clever mystery with an appealing narrator. Sam is intelligent and observant, earning him praise by a local sheriff as “a fine detective.” Koehler does a great job of keeping him, as well as the reader, guessing through multiple convincing red herrings. In this entertaining mystery, Sam grows as a person. His desire to join Joey’s cool lacrosse crowd challenges him to reflect on friendship, loyalty, and empathy while a school project awakens a new interest in nature conservation.

An enjoyable twisty mystery and coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-947536-07-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Turtle Cove Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

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A rich source of terrors both real and manufactured, equally effective in broad daylight or beneath the bedcovers.



A compendium of paranormal doings, natural horrors, and eerie wonders worldwide and (in several senses) beyond.

Maladroit title aside (“…in Bed” would make more sense, cautionwise), this collection of hauntings, cryptids, natural and historical mysteries, and general titillation (“Vampire bats might be coming for you!”) offers a broad array of reasons to stay wide awake. Arranged in no discernible order the 60-plus entries include ghostly sightings in the White House and various castles, body-burrowing guinea worms, the Nazca lines of Peru, Mothman and Nessie, the hastily abandoned city of Pripyat (which, thanks to the Chernobyl disaster, may be habitable again…in 24,000 years), monarch-butterfly migrations, and diverse rains of fish, frogs, fireballs, and unidentified slime. Each is presented in a busy whirl of narrative blocks, photos, graphics, side comments, and arbitrary “Fright-O-Meter” ratings (Paris’ “Creepy Catacombs” earn just a “4” out of 10 and black holes a “3,” but the aforementioned aerial amphibians a full “10”). The headers tend toward the lurid: “Jelly From Space,” “Zombie Ants,” “Mongolian Death Worm.” Claybourne sprinkles multiple-choice pop quizzes throughout for changes of pace.

A rich source of terrors both real and manufactured, equally effective in broad daylight or beneath the bedcovers. (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4263-2841-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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In a large, handsome format, Tarnowska offers six tales plus an abbreviated version of the frame story, retold in formal but contemporary language and sandwiched between a note on the Nights’ place in her childhood in Lebanon and a page of glossary and source notes. Rather than preserve the traditional embedded structure and cliffhanger cutoffs, she keeps each story discrete and tones down the sex and violence. This structure begs the question of why Shahriyar lets Shahrazade [sic] live if she tells each evening’s tale complete, but it serves to simplify the reading for those who want just one tale at a time. Only the opener, “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp,” is likely to be familiar to young readers; in others a prince learns to control a flying “Ebony Horse” by “twiddling” its ears, contending djinn argue whether “Prince Kamar el Zaman [or] Princess Boudour” is the more beautiful (the prince wins) and in a Cinderella tale a “Diamond Anklet” subs for the glass slipper. Hénaff’s stylized scenes of domed cityscapes and turbaned figures add properly whimsical visual notes to this short but animated gathering. (Folktales. 10-12)


Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-84686-122-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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