Perhaps once the series is complete, this will be something to recommend.

THE BAD APPLE

From the Merits of Mischief series , Vol. 1

Mischief has its rewards, especially at Kilter Academy.

Twelve-year-old Seamus Hinkle was a good student, a good kid, with a spotless record. Then during a brawl in the cafeteria, he wings an apple at a substitute teacher, hoping to startle her out of intervening and thus save her from near-certain injury—and kills her. He's sent to Kilter Academy for Troubled Youth. After his parents drop him off, Seamus finds things at Kilter aren't what they seem. It's a school to train professional Troublemakers. Pulling one over on the young faculty earns demerits, which equal credits at the Kommissary. Ratting on fellow students earns gold stars, which correspondingly reduce credit at the Kommissary. Weighed down with guilt, Seamus vows to be good, but he keeps inadvertently scaring or making a fool of his teachers and earning demerits. Why does the school’s enigmatic director have such confidence in Seamus? Will he ever feel comfortable letting his new friends know why he’s at Kilter? Burns’ (who’s also Tricia Rayburn, Siren, 2010) series starter has an interesting premise and some enjoyable moments. However, there are far too many loose ends at volume's close for this to be a satisfying read in itself. While Seamus’s turmoil is believable, he and the rest of the cast are a bit underdeveloped. The lack of solutions to the several mysteries make this more of a turn-off than a page-turner.

Perhaps once the series is complete, this will be something to recommend. (Adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4029-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.

ALMOST SUPER

Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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