As a stand-alone work, less than satisfying.

RETURN OF ZOMBERT

From the ZomBert Chronicles series

Bert, the cat Mellie adopted in series opener Rise of ZomBert (2020), may not be a zombie…but she’s sure he’s special.

Former stray Bert has put on weight, and his fur’s filled in in the month that fourth grader Mellie has been taking care of him. With him, she hopes to win the Best Pet Contest at the Lambert Harvest Festival (sponsored by omnipresent YummCo) so she can pay her parents back for Bert’s vet bill. Her friend Danny’s (kind of) helping with Bert’s training while filming the rough-looking feline for a trilogy of ZomBert movies on social media. Bert has his own plan: to rescue all of his former test-subject companions from YummCo’s labs. Meanwhile, the Big Boss and lab techs Kari and Greg scheme to get Bert (or Y-91, as they call him) back into the lab for more tests. Whose plans will succeed? Perspectives alternate chapter by chapter among Mellie (related in the first person) and Bert (in a third-person cat voice) and the Yumms (third-person bad guy), and the story moves at a nice clip. However, it’s less spooky and mysterious than the first installment and has a truncated feel; it’s definitely a middle chapter in a longer work, leaving little resolved. As seen in the illustrations, Mellie’s family is interracial (she and her mom have brown skin and textured hair, and her dad and younger siblings present White); her friends are racially diverse. Entertaining enough, but young readers might want to wait until the final volume is out before picking up the first.

As a stand-alone work, less than satisfying. (Science fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0107-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

THE MYSTERIOUS MESSENGER

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Simple text, short chapters, and plenty of illustrations will appeal to emerging readers who prefer just a little shiver...

THE HAUNTED HOUSE NEXT DOOR

From the Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol series , Vol. 1

What happens if you move to a new town and your house is haunted? Andres is about to find out!

Andres Miedoso—his last name means “fearful” in Spanish—is “definitely not the coolest and bravest kid in the world.” In fact, Andres likes normal-boring and understands normal-boring, because he is normal-boring. But when the brown-skinned, curly haired Latino child and his family move to Kersville, he finds out his new home is anything but normal-boring. Fortunately, his next-door neighbor, a black boy named Desmond Cole who is the same age as Andres, is “the coolest, bravest kid in the world.” Desmond’s business as stated on his business card is “Ghost Patrol.” How lucky should a boy feel to live in a haunted house? Very—if you’re Desmond. Not so lucky if you’re Andres. But when the ghost eats a lasagna that makes him sick and tells them he’s been moving from house to house, Andres feels sorry and invites the ghost to stay as long as he promises “not to do any spooky stuff.” A deal is struck, a friendship is born, and a new series for chapter-book readers gets off to a good start.

Simple text, short chapters, and plenty of illustrations will appeal to emerging readers who prefer just a little shiver with their story—and to other readers too. (Suspense. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1039-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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