This riveting portrayal of early Colonial New England shines a speculative but compelling light on the time and place.

Will, resident of an English settlement on the edge of the American wilderness in 1643, risks everything when he lets a wise and powerful Native American shaman provide guidance.

Squamiset, a former English captive, has a canny awareness of Will’s odd out-of-body experiences. Their growing friendship—peppered with the man’s seemingly magical feats—provokes retaliation from the colony’s leader, Rockingham, who is driven to imprison Will and a young native friend. After Squamiset choreographs a breathless rescue, the three head east and then bravely paddle all the way to Nantucket in a dugout canoe. Natives there eventually welcome the group, leading to an idyllic interlude before Rockingham reappears, determined to have vengeance at any cost. The superstitious, incendiary passions of the settlers are effectively and thoughtfully contrasted against the temperate attitude of the Native Americans. Immersive, like the best of historical fiction, Will’s world is so believably depicted that the looming threat from Rockingham infiltrates even the more cheerful aspects of the tale. Suspense is effectively sustained right up to the epilogue that hints—in the form of myth—at Will’s eventual future. Whether the uncertainty of his ultimate situation is the setup for a sequel is unclear although readers would no doubt welcome a further adventure.

This riveting portrayal of early Colonial New England shines a speculative but compelling light on the time and place. (Historical fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-6-898-173-1

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Namelos

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014


Ghostwritten for a fictional 13-year-old character on the ABC Family network show Secret Life of the American Teenager, this September-to-August journal recaps the first season and part of the second—from 15-year-old sister Amy’s revelation that she’s pregnant through her parents’ divorce and the news that her mother herself is expecting. In the snarky tone she generally takes onscreen, narrator Ashley relates events from her own point of view and elaborates on them in long, wordy entries replete with adolescent self-assurance. Of a run-in with the school principal, for instance: “I think the real reason I got into trouble was because I expressed my individuality. It tends to scare authority figures when someone my age does that.” This “enhanced” e-book includes 10 brief video clips embedded in the general vicinity of their relevant passages. There is also a closing page of links to expedite the posting of reader ratings and reviews. Aside from a pair of footnotes pushed to a screen at the end, far away from their original contexts, the translation to digital format works seamlessly for reading/viewing in either single-page/portrait or double-page/landscape orientation. There’s enough standard-issue teen and domestic drama here to keep fans of such fare reading, but devotees of the show may be disappointed at the lack of significant new content, either in the narrative itself or in the e-book’s media features. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 22, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4013-9596-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011


Unfortunate Events galore, served with relish.

The creator of such picture books as Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance (1999) and Three Nasty Gnarlies (2003) dishes up a first novel seasoned with the same delightfully twisted, ghoulish sensibility.

Immediately upon arriving in Awkward Falls, a small Manitoba town known for its canned sauerkraut and its Asylum for the Dangerously Insane (“both,” notes the narrator, “to be avoided at all costs, as one was likely to cause gas, and the other, death.”), 12-year-old Josephine meets agemate Thaddeus Hibble. Thaddeus is a scientific genius who has lived alone since infancy on an all–junk-food diet supplied by a robot butler and paid for by re-animating the dead pets of local matrons. Together the two are plunged into personal danger and worse at the clutching hands of hunchbacked lunatic cannibal Fetid Stenchley, former lab assistant and Asylum escapee. With aid from a supporting cast of colorful locals, a half-rotted corpse brought back to partial life and a ravening herd of chimerical monsters created in a secret biotechnology lab, Graves crafts a quick-moving plot composed of macabre twists. These are made all the ickier for being presented in significant part from Stenchley’s point of view. Wordless opening and closing sequences, plus a handful of interior illustrations, both fill in background detail and intensify the overall macabre atmosphere. The central characters receive just, if, under the circumstances, not necessarily final deserts.

Unfortunate Events galore, served with relish. (finished illustrations not seen) (Melodrama. 11-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8118-7814-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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