An engrossing, good-humored page-turner.

A middle-grade mystery set in the American South serves up murder and mayhem with a side of hot mustard.

After his Marine hero father died five years ago, Cooper Steven Goodman and his mother, Delilah, took up residence with his paternal grandfather, Dr. Harley Goodman, in bucolic Windy Bottom, Georgia. (Despite the setting and several Civil War references, race plays no part in the story, and all characters are assumed white.) Now 13, Coop spends most of his time with best friends Justice and Liberty, brother-and-sister twins whose parents co-own A Latté Books, Windy Bottom’s only bookstore/cafe, with Coop’s mother. A few days before seventh grade begins, a playground renovation disinters the earthly remains of Tabby Goodman, Coop’s grandmother, who allegedly skipped town four decades earlier, and shatters the small town’s idyllic peace. As evidence stacks up, Coop reckons with revelations that rattle his family’s history. How could he have known his grandmother was the heiress to a shipping fortune? That his grandfather jilted his high school sweetheart when he returned from college? That Gramps’ lifelong injunctions against drinking and gambling are rooted in practice, not principle? Coop’s narration, playful language, nuanced characters, intricate plotting, and a bittersweet conclusion help transform a slow-as-molasses whodunit into a race against the clock. Can Coop and his friends clear Gramps’ name in time—or is everything he thought he knew a lie?

An engrossing, good-humored page-turner. (Mystery. 9-13)

Pub Date: July 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4018-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020


Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000


From the Hide and Geek series , Vol. 1

A snappy mystery that’s full of heart.

A group of bright friends tackles the puzzle of their lives.

Elmwood, New Hampshire, 11-year-old Gina Sparks is small in stature but big on reporting ongoing dramas for the local newspaper with support from her journalist mom. When an unbelievable scoop comes her way, Gina must rely on her tightknit crew of sixth grade best friends whose initials happen to spell GEEK, a label they choose to proudly reclaim. She and science-minded prankster Elena Hernández, theater kid Edgar Feingarten, and driven math genius Kevin Robinson decide to get to the bottom of things when they learn that the Van Houten Toy & Game Company heir made elaborate plans to leave everything to the town of Elmwood before her death—but only if a member of the community could solve an intricate multistep puzzle. Gina hopes that deciphering the clues and finding the missing fortune will be just the thing to revitalize the down-on-its-luck town and bring the Elmwood Tribune back into the black, saving her mom’s job and Gina’s passion project. The GEEKs work together, using their individual talents and deductive reasoning skills to unravel the mystery. Infused with media literacy pointers, such as the difference between fact and opinion and reminders to avoid bias when reporting, the story encourages readers to think critically. Gina and Edgar read as White; Elena is cued as Latinx, and Kevin is implied Black.

A snappy mystery that’s full of heart. (Mystery. 9-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-37793-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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