An excellent choice for young readers eager for a suspenseful, emotionally satisfying fantasy adventure.




A heroic teenage girl uncovers ghosts, a strange radioactive substance and interdimensional travel in Graham’s debut young-adult novel.

Thomasville, Maine, has been experiencing extremely bizarre weather. For the past month, the sun has been completely obscured by dark clouds, and the rain hasn’t let up. Thirteen-year-old Sophina Murray’s neighbor and former mentor, Mrs. Tanner, seems to be at the center of it all. When Sophina's younger brother and other local children are kidnapped by a strange, hooded figure carrying a glowing rock, she begins an investigation of her own in an attempt to put her family back together. Graham’s writing deftly evokes the story’s atmosphere, setting the tone beautifully from the start with a haunting description of Thomasville’s rain-swept terrain; a sense of mystery and danger permeates the prose. Meanwhile, Sophina is a brave, intelligent heroine for young readers to follow. She takes everything in stride that comes her way—even traveling to the parallel alien dimension, Trellah. The recent death of Sophina's father casts a dark shadow over her life, which the grim occurrences of the past month thematically mirror; Sophina’s strong sense of courage stems from her desire to spare her mother another loss. Beyond the interesting premise, there’s not much to differentiate this novel from other titles in the genre. Trellah is not a unique fantasy world, and the novel’s plot twists are rather predictable. The book, however, does exhibit fine character development and powerful dramatic tension.

An excellent choice for young readers eager for a suspenseful, emotionally satisfying fantasy adventure.

Pub Date: March 10, 2012


Page Count: 229

Publisher: Jagged Coast Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2012

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Penfold and Kaufman have outdone themselves in delivering a vital message in today’s political climate. Let’s hope more...

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A lively city school celebrates its diversity.

Front endpapers show adult caregivers walking their charges to school, the families a delightful mix that includes interracial, same-sex, and heterosexual couples as well as single caregivers; the rear endpapers assemble them again at the conclusion of a successful schoolwide evening potluck. In between, the rhyming verses focus on aspects of a typical school day, always ending with the titular phrase: “Time for lunch—what a spread! / A dozen different kinds of bread. / Pass it around till everyone’s fed. / All are welcome here.” Indeed, this school is diversity exemplified. Several kids point to their home countries on a world map, and some wear markers of their cultural or religious groups: There’s a girl in hijab, a boy wearing a Sikh patka, and a boy in a kippah. A rainbow of hair colors and skin tones is in evidence, and children with disabilities are also included: a blind boy, a girl in a wheelchair, and several kids with glasses. What is most wonderful, though, is the way they interact with one another without regard to their many differences. Kaufman’s acrylic, ink, crayon, collage, and Photoshop illustrations bring the many personalities in this school community to life. “You have a place here. / You have a space here. / You are welcome here.”

Penfold and Kaufman have outdone themselves in delivering a vital message in today’s political climate. Let’s hope more people, starting with this picture book’s audience, embrace it. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-57964-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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