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 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards.


Two young ghosts with unfinished business in this world join forces.

Eighth grade cyclist Finn McAllister decides to undertake a search for the supposedly crazed driver who forced him off the road and over a cliff to his death, but he spends far more of his time attending his own funeral, hovering near his grieving family and his four besties to overhear conversations, and floating through school—skipping the girls’ restroom because he still has somestandards—and positively hammering on the realization that wasting any of life’s opportunities can only lead to regret. He discovers that he can still taste ice cream, smell farts, skip stones in the local lake, and use a TV remote. He can also share thoughts with both the living and with Isabella Rojas, the ghost of a classmate who vanished several months previously but is still hanging around, although she is not sure why. Eventually, in a massively contrived climax that leaves both souls ready to move on, Finn comes up with a scheme to produce proof of Isabella’s death to bring closure to her mother and also absolves his hit-and-run driver of fault (for a reason readers will see coming). In this outing, the usually dynamic duo throws together an aimless ramble around a set of flimsy mysteries that fail to coalesce. Finn reads as White; Isabella is cued as Latinx. Final illustrations not seen.

Likely to sell in spades but a slipshod, slapdash outing from co-authors who usually have higher standards. (Paranormal fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-50024-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

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