A straightforward but well-structured and absorbing supernatural tale of change and coping.



A bereaved boy discovers that he can see ghosts in this middle-grade novel.

Ever since 1900, when spiritualists “tore a hole” between the real world and the supernatural realm, poltergeists have come through the opening and plagued mortals. Like all children, 12-year-old Alex Lenard was tattooed at birth with a mark shielding him from “evil spirits.” His house in New Orleans is covered in pentacles and other signs of protection. Supernatural entities—and the arcane methods of keeping them at bay—are an everyday part of life. Alex is a star ghostball player at school. But on the way to the state championship, he is badly injured in a car accident. His mother is killed. Not only will the grief-stricken Alex never play again, the accident switches something inside of him. He develops psychic powers—a change thought to be impossible at his age. Alex doesn’t wish to see ghosts. His dad is staunchly anti-psychic, and going back to school will be hard enough for Alex without having his crazy aunt and his weird, paranormal-obsessed cousin Hannah move in next door. But what Alex wants doesn’t seem to matter. When he accompanies his aunt and cousin on one of their investigations, they uncover a spirit that needs putting to rest—and an evil entity hell-bent on stopping them. Backed by his Jamaican best friend, Jason Anderson, Alex must either accept his new situation or risk losing everyone he has left. McCauley writes in the first person, past tense and tells a simple story at an effective pace. The worldbuilding is a bit clumsy at first—the early chapters repeat some information—but once over its teething troubles, the book moves smoothly from premise to execution. The dialogue is well handled. The ubiquitous nature of the spirits is a pleasing facet that stands out. But of course the true focus is on Alex’s loss and how he deals with it. Alex is an average but likable protagonist, and Hannah and Jason are able supporting characters. Young readers should find themselves deeply engrossed.

A straightforward but well-structured and absorbing supernatural tale of change and coping. (glossary)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-951069-04-9

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Celtic Sea, LLC

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood.


In this prequel to Newbery Award–winning The Crossover (2014), Alexander revisits previous themes and formats while exploring new ones.

For Charlie Bell, the future father of The Crossover’s Jordan and Josh, his father’s death alters his relationship with his mother and causes him to avoid what reminds him of his dad. At first, he’s just withdrawn, but after he steals from a neighbor, his mother packs a reluctant Charlie off to his grandparents near Washington, D.C., for the summer. His grandfather works part-time at a Boys and Girls Club where his cousin Roxie is a star basketball player. Despite his protests, she draws him into the game. His time with his grandparents deepens Charlie’s understanding of his father, and he begins to heal. “I feel / a little more normal, / like maybe he’s still here, / … in a / as long as I remember him / he’s still right here / in my heart / kind of way.” Once again, Alexander has given readers an African-American protagonist to cheer. He is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, especially two brilliant female characters, his friend CJ and his cousin Roxie, as well as his feisty and wise granddaddy. Music and cultural references from the late 1980s add authenticity. The novel in verse is enhanced by Anyabwile’s art, which reinforces Charlie’s love for comics.

An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood. (Historical verse fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-86813-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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The Baudelaire children—Violet, 14, Klaus, 12, and baby Sunny—are exceedingly ill-fated; Snicket extracts both humor and horror from their situation, as he gleefully puts them through one terrible ordeal after another. After receiving the news that their parents died in a fire, the three hapless orphans are delivered into the care of Count Olaf, who “is either a third cousin four times removed, or a fourth cousin three times removed.” The villainous Count Olaf is morally depraved and generally mean, and only takes in the downtrodden yet valiant children so that he can figure out a way to separate them from their considerable inheritance. The youngsters are able to escape his clutches at the end, but since this is the first installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events, there will be more ghastly doings. Written with old-fashioned flair, this fast-paced book is not for the squeamish: the Baudelaire children are truly sympathetic characters who encounter a multitude of distressing situations. Those who enjoy a little poison in their porridge will find it wicked good fun. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-440766-7

Page Count: 162

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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