A good choice for middle graders who enjoy teasing out the red herrings from the clues.

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THE SNAKE MISTAKE MYSTERY

From the Great Mistake Mysteries series , Vol. 3

A dog-walking business falls into peril when all of its clients are burgled.

Stephen and Renée work for Stephen’s dad at Noble Dog Walking service. After a big storm, the dog-walking clients begin complaining that items have gone missing from their homes; among the missing items are a Mr. Universe gold medal, a laptop, and money. Since there are no indications of forced entry, the service falls under suspicion, and clients begin leaving. Stephen and Renée, now firmly established friends and cohorts, still walk, and are very fond of, Ping and Pong, the delightful pair of boisterous dogs owned by a loyal client. Desperate to save the family business, Renée and Stephen start examining a trail of clues that lead to a missing python that no amount of frozen mice can lure back. There are plenty of eccentric characters and suspects in this seemingly mostly white town. Stephen has not given up his compulsion to count mistakes, believing that “mistakes are good things. They help us discover amazing stuff,” and he seems less awkward in his own skin than in series opener The Best Mistake Mystery (2017). There is, however, no intriguing tension to this whodunit, and the plot becomes convoluted, with an overabundance of players, making this one for readers in it for the puzzle instead of the action.

A good choice for middle graders who enjoy teasing out the red herrings from the clues. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4597-3973-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dundurn

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world.

THEY THREW US AWAY

From the Teddies Saga series , Vol. 1

The journey to find a child becomes an existential quest for an abandoned teddy bear.

Buddy is not just any stuffed bear, but a blue Furrington Teddy with a Real Silk Heart. So why did he wake up in a landfill with other Furringtons of varying hues? A more pressing matter, however, is escaping Trashland and its murderous gulls and bulldozers. Yearning to connect with a child and achieve a state of peaceful Forever Sleep, Buddy and his new friends of differing temperaments and gifts set out on a harrowing journey through the city to find children who will want them. As they encounter other Furringtons in disarray, this opener in The Teddies Saga series becomes a mystery about why these teddies are being harmed in the first place. While the visceral narrative follows the teddy troupe’s adventurous challenges and survival, its focus is on Buddy’s inner struggles as he ponders identity, leadership, and other existential dilemmas. Kraus doesn’t shy away from anger, fear, death, and other dark subjects; instead they become opportunities for growth in difficult environments. Cai’s intense, slightly nightmarish grayscale illustrations add immeasurably to the text. Reminiscent of Watership Down in theme and structure, the novel’s intermittent teddy creation stories also become parables of a moral code and extend the epic story arc. A cliffhanger ending sets the scene for the next installment.

Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22440-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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