A quirky, kid-friendly introduction to the murder mystery.

MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL

Five strangers (with secrets!) are invited to a historic (haunted) hotel—to solve a murder.

The secluded Barclay Hotel, one of Colorado’s most haunted places, sends five invitations to a carefully selected guest list: a cowboy, a librarian, a CEO, an actor, and a detective. The CEO’s preteen son (ghost-hunting aficionado JJ, who hates reading) and the detective’s granddaughter (aspiring detective Penny, a bookworm) tag along and immediately connect with the hotel’s lonely resident kid, Emma, daughter of the head chef. Once the guests are assembled (and the driver has left, natch), the butler reveals that they’ve been gathered to solve a mystery—who killed Mr. Barclay?—and, with the exception of the detective, they are the suspects. The kids jump into action, interviewing suspects to tease out motive, means, and opportunity—and all of the adults have secrets. The mystery features some fun reversals, allowing just enough convolution for mystery novices (who will learn the terms “whodunit” and “red herring”); Agatha Christie references abound, and the hotel setting shines. The ghostly supernatural storyline is mild and unthreatening and not prominent enough for kids looking for a paranormal scary story. The murder mystery is gentled through temporal distance (the murder happened a week prior; there are no bodies or graphic moments). While the ending relies on a villain’s monologue, the happily-ever-after is an earned one. Aside from dark-skinned Penny and her grandfather, the other characters default to (and are illustrated as) white.

A quirky, kid-friendly introduction to the murder mystery. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-20290-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark.

NARWHAL I'M AROUND

From the Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter series , Vol. 2

An animal ghost seeks closure after enduring aquatic atrocities.

In this sequel to The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter (2020), sixth grader Rex is determined to once again use his ability to communicate with dead animals for the greater good. A ghost narwhal’s visit gives Rex his next opportunity in the form of the clue “bad water.” Rex enlists Darvish—his Pakistani American human best friend—and Drumstick—his “faithful (dead) chicken”—to help crack the case. But the mystery is only one of Rex’s many roadblocks. For starters, Sami Mulpepper hugged him at a dance, and now she’s his “accidental girlfriend.” Even worse, Darvish develops one of what Rex calls “Game Preoccupation Disorders” over role-playing game Monsters & Mayhem that may well threaten the pair’s friendship. Will Rex become “a Sherlock without a Watson,” or can the two make amends in time to solve the mystery? This second outing effectively carries the “ghost-mist” torch from its predecessor without feeling too much like a formulaic carbon copy. Spouting terms like plausible deniability and in flagrante delicto, Rex makes for a hilariously bombastic (if unlikable) first-person narrator. The over-the-top style is contagious, and black-and-white illustrations throughout add cartoony punchlines to various scenes. Unfortunately, scenes in which humor comes at the expense of those with less status are downright cringeworthy, as when Rex, who reads as White, riffs on the impossibility of his ever pronouncing Darvish’s surname or he plays dumb by staring into space and drooling.

Funny delivery, but some jokes really miss the mark. (Paranormal mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5523-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

more