Instantly compelling, this is the story of two siblings who find themselves abandoned and evicted from their home. Buddy, 11, is sent to stay with estranged relatives in Montana, while her brother Bart, 17, sets off to solve the mystery of their father, who has vanished while starting a new trucking job. Buddy is uncomfortable in the madcap, financially strained, and crowded home of her doting Aunt Cassie and sharp-tongued Aunt Addie. Gus is Cassie’s husband, a barely functioning alcoholic who is resented by his son Max, and Grandpa’s dementia keeps the family on their toes. Buddy is disconcerted when she finds a photo of her father with his arm around Aunt Addie. She feels even more wretched when Aunt Addie links the disappearance of Grandpa’s money to Ellabelle, her now deceased mother. Meanwhile, Bart travels down the California highways as he gets closer to finding their father, dead or alive. It is a windfall of good fortune when Buddy finds the missing money, Bart saves their father, and Aunt Addie sells two manuscripts. Excluding Buddy, who lacks intensity, the characters are fully drawn and engaging, but this is supposed to be Buddy’s story. While Roberts is not at top form, this has stories within stories, but is more a look at family dynamics than one of her fine mysteries. She does use her characters to touch on the subjects of alcoholism, codependence, poverty, and the enduring influence of family. But the issues tend to outweigh the plot, making this a less-than-satisfying whole. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-81670-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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Bunny Brown and Jack Jones, ace detectives, join forces again to solve their third easy-reader mystery in this snappy new series from Newbery Medalist Rylant, author of the beloved Henry and Mudge books. Bunny the bunny is the practical brains of the detective duo, and Jack the raccoon is her humorous sidekick, who is even funnier in this book than in the previous volumes, The Case of the Missing Monkey (not reviewed) and The Case of the Climbing Cat (2000). In this case, Bunny and Jack solve the chronic disappearance (and reappearance) of a trombone from a neighborhood music store. The puzzling possum of the title, Freddy, has been repeatedly "borrowing" the trombone so he can play at hayride entertainments with Gus's Big Brass Boys. Bunny and Jack nab him red-handed, and Bunny offers the practical solution of paying for the trombone by giving lessons at the music store. The combination easy-reader, easy-mystery follows the established format of a few clues, a mild neighborhood mystery, and lots of clever puns and jokes that will delight the intended audience. The humor is exactly on track for the early elementary grades, including a squashed marshmallow on Jack's seat and a quick rush to the bathroom following some dizzying explanations by the music-store owner (just the sort of jokes first graders adore). Karas's engaging illustrations in acrylic, gouache, and pencil help create unique personalities for Bunny and Jack. It's no mystery why this series is successful, and this endearing duo seems destined to crack many more cases of minor mischief in their urban neighborhood. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-16308-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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Maynard (Quiet, Wyatt!, 1999) makes fire the pivotal plot element in this short, episodic action novel. In the small village of McIntosh, Jed, the fire chief’s son, is branded a fire bug for a past transgression in which he accidentally burned down the family garage. Now, when a local swamp catches fire, he is the first to be blamed. Norm Dempsey, wannabe fire chief, is first to point the finger. Through a freak accident, Jed’s father lands in a coma in the hospital. A series of fires, a swamp fire, brush fire, barn fire, and school fire in the sports equipment room, forms a string of actions that make up the story. Toss in a few boyish pranks and some not-so-subtle clues and the story builds to its natural climax—an even bigger fire. This time, a monster train wreck sets the whole pond ablaze. Not surprisingly, Jed takes charge and steps in to rescue the day, the nursing home and surrounding houses, with a little help from his recuperating father, all in the name of saving face and proving that Norm Dempsey is behind the arsons. This fast-moving, predictable fare has some great action sequences, with appeal for mystery fans. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-399-23439-X

Page Count: 149

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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