An engaging blend of sleuthing, puzzle-solving, and magic.

THE SECRETS OF WINTERHOUSE

From the Winterhouse series , Vol. 2

One year after the events of Winterhouse (2018), 12-year-old Elizabeth Somers returns to the grand Winterhouse Hotel for Christmas break.

Elizabeth’s pleasure at being back with her grandfather Norbridge and her young, anagram-loving inventor friend, Freddy, and at being included in the family tree, is increased by learning that Winterhouse will now be her permanent home. The delights of living in a place with its own candy factory, a lake for skating and mountains for skiing, a large library, and movies playing nightly are appealingly detailed. But something is not quite right—two sets of unpleasant guests are behaving strangely, and Elizabeth’s great-aunt, the sorceress Gracella, might not be entirely dead. The Winterhouse seal, an intriguing riddle set into the floor, suggests hidden doorways and tests Elizabeth’s and Freddy’s puzzle-solving skills. The book adheres to a white default: None of the characters are identified by race in the text, though Freddy and librarian Leona are illustrated with dark skin; gloomy Mr. Rajput, one of the hotel’s frequent guests, is likely of South Asian descent. Elizabeth is an appealing heroine, fond of reading and puzzles, confident in her intelligence, but she grapples with her temper and emotions and worries about fitting in at school or among people in general. Though Elizabeth counts Leona among her friends, the cast is male, with the only other primary female characters fairly unlikable.

An engaging blend of sleuthing, puzzle-solving, and magic. (Mystery. 9-13)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-12390-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Entrancing and uplifting.

STAY

A small dog, the elderly woman who owns him, and a homeless girl come together to create a tale of serendipity.

Piper, almost 12, her parents, and her younger brother are at the bottom of a long slide toward homelessness. Finally in a family shelter, Piper finds that her newfound safety gives her the opportunity to reach out to someone who needs help even more. Jewel, mentally ill, lives in the park with her dog, Baby. Unwilling to leave her pet, and forbidden to enter the shelter with him, she struggles with the winter weather. Ree, also homeless and with a large dog, helps when she can, but after Jewel gets sick and is hospitalized, Baby’s taken to the animal shelter, and Ree can’t manage the complex issues alone. It’s Piper, using her best investigative skills, who figures out Jewel’s backstory. Still, she needs all the help of the shelter Firefly Girls troop that she joins to achieve her accomplishment: to raise enough money to provide Jewel and Baby with a secure, hopeful future and, maybe, with their kindness, to inspire a happier story for Ree. Told in the authentic alternating voices of loving child and loyal dog, this tale could easily slump into a syrupy melodrama, but Pyron lets her well-drawn characters earn their believable happy ending, step by challenging step, by reaching out and working together. Piper, her family, and Jewel present white; Pyron uses hair and naming convention, respectively, to cue Ree as black and Piper’s friend Gabriela as Latinx.

Entrancing and uplifting. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-283922-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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