Admirable insight, despite being conveyed by a lad who comes across as more a super-precocious, psychologically astute...

THE EXTRAORDINARY EDUCATION OF NICHOLAS BENEDICT

From the Mysterious Benedict Society series

Stewart fills in the back story on the narcoleptic genius founder of the Mysterious Benedict Society (2007), planting him amid fellow orphans in an old country mansion.

The leisurely, discursive tale takes young Nicholas— “a boy of whimsical mind, to be sure (though whimsy was not the half of it, nor even the beginning)”—into the financially troubled Rothschild’s End (“or ’Child’s End, as it is often abbreviated”). There, along with the customary sets of brutal bullies, cowed children and myopically semi-competent staff, he encounters his first library, his first real friend and exciting hints of a lost treasure. His search for this last is complicated by his affliction, which is triggered by any strong positive emotion, as well as the fact that he’s locked into a storeroom every night and also continually at risk from the aforesaid thugs. Being smarter than everyone else put together as well as mechanically gifted, though, he turns every challenge into an opportunity and by the end has found the treasure (which turns out to something much better than money), saved the orphanage and forced a truce with the bullies. More significantly, having seen kindness and compassion in action “[h]e might not know what he wanted to be when he grew up, but he knew with absolute certainty how he wanted to be.”

Admirable insight, despite being conveyed by a lad who comes across as more a super-precocious, psychologically astute preteen than a credible 9 year old. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-17619-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Megan Tingley/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Narrow squeaks aplenty combine with bursts of lyrical prose for a satisfying adventure

THE GOOD THIEVES

A Prohibition-era child enlists a gifted pickpocket and a pair of budding circus performers in a clever ruse to save her ancestral home from being stolen by developers.

Rundell sets her iron-jawed protagonist on a seemingly impossible quest: to break into the ramshackle Hudson River castle from which her grieving grandfather has been abruptly evicted by unscrupulous con man Victor Sorrotore and recover a fabulously valuable hidden emerald. Laying out an elaborate scheme in a notebook that itself turns out to be an integral part of the ensuing caper, Vita, only slowed by a bout with polio years before, enlists a team of helpers. Silk, a light-fingered orphan, aspiring aerialist Samuel Kawadza, and Arkady, a Russian lad with a remarkable affinity for and with animals, all join her in a series of expeditions, mostly nocturnal, through and under Manhattan. The city never comes to life the way the human characters do (Vita, for instance, “had six kinds of smile, and five of them were real”) but often does have a tangible presence, and notwithstanding Vita’s encounter with a (rather anachronistically styled) “Latina” librarian, period attitudes toward race and class are convincingly drawn. Vita, Silk, and Arkady all present white; Samuel, a Shona immigrant from Southern Rhodesia, is the only primary character of color. Santoso’s vignettes of, mostly, animals and small items add occasional visual grace notes.

Narrow squeaks aplenty combine with bursts of lyrical prose for a satisfying adventure . (Historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1948-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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