A smart, funny pleasure, as satisfying as sipping lemonade on the front porch with a favorite grandparent

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MR. SAMUEL'S PENNY

A city girl from Queens, New York, is thrust into the slowed-down homeyness of a small North Carolina town in 1972, but the summer she fears will drag on intolerably soon turns into the mystery of a missing penny and an unknown killer.

When Lizbeth rides her bike to the bridge, she feels the thrill of adventure. A car has gone over it; someone has died. But seeing the dead man's hand flutter lifelessly and learning that a baby has also died, Lizbeth feels the thrill morph into sickness. So begins Lizbeth's quest to discover the origins of the rare 1909 wheat penny that the dying man clung to as he and his baby plunged to their deaths. Melvin’s tale of mystery opens with action, but then the story veers from murder to explore the thornier mysteries of human relationships. As a character, Lizbeth Landers is a spunky girl whose take on life is both illuminating and familiar. With a strong supporting cast that includes her aunt Alice and the new widow Miss Violet, she navigates the tricky waters of long-buried secrets while also learning something about what it means to be part of a community. While the slow pace might deter some younger readers, the beautiful phrasing will help to capture more sophisticated ones.

A smart, funny pleasure, as satisfying as sipping lemonade on the front porch with a favorite grandparent . (Mystery. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-929345-04-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Poisoned Pencil

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.

A GIRL, A RACCOON, AND THE MIDNIGHT MOON

This is the way Pearl’s world ends: not with a bang but with a scream.

Pearl Moran was born in the Lancaster Avenue branch library and considers it more her home than the apartment she shares with her mother, the circulation librarian. When the head of the library’s beloved statue of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay is found to be missing, Pearl’s scream brings the entire neighborhood running. Thus ensues an enchanting plunge into the underbelly of a failing library and a city brimful of secrets. With the help of friends old, uncertainly developing, and new, Pearl must spin story after compelling story in hopes of saving what she loves most. Indeed, that love—of libraries, of books, and most of all of stories—suffuses the entire narrative. Literary references are peppered throughout (clarified with somewhat superfluous footnotes) in addition to a variety of tangential sidebars (the identity of whose writer becomes delightfully clear later on). Pearl is an odd but genuine narrator, possessed of a complex and emotional inner voice warring with a stridently stubborn outer one. An array of endearing supporting characters, coupled with a plot both grounded in stressful reality and uplifted by urban fantasy, lend the story its charm. Both the neighborhood and the library staff are robustly diverse. Pearl herself is biracial; her “long-gone father” was black and her mother is white. Bagley’s spot illustrations both reinforce this and add gentle humor.

The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.   (reading list) (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6952-1

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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An abundantly diverting mystery seasoned with mild fantasy and just a little steampunk.

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GREENGLASS HOUSE

When his parents’ hotel fills up with a variety of unexpected guests just days before Christmas, Milo is caught up in mysterious goings-on.

The inn, hospitable to smugglers and named for its colored glass windows, sits on cliffs above the river Skidwrack. With the holiday interrupted by the demands of guests iced in by wintry weather, Milo finds both purpose and distraction in a role-playing game introduced by his new young friend, Meddy, and in a book of folklore given to him by a guest. A ghost story, a love story, a story of fabled relics and the tale of a legendary smuggler intertwine while Milo, in his game persona, finds longed-for skills and strengths. Each guest seeks a secret treasure in the old house, while Milo, out of loyalty to his adoptive parents, hardly dares name his own secret quest: to know more about his Chinese heritage. Milford’s storytelling is splendid. Stories within the story are rich and layered; clues are generously offered; even the badly behaved visitors seem fairly good-humored until the worst reveals true perfidy at the last; the many threads of the tale all tie up. Milo’s world seems comfortably contemporary; the current history of his parallel world is mostly background that’s revealed at the close.

An abundantly diverting mystery seasoned with mild fantasy and just a little steampunk. (Mystery/fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-05270-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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