An action-packed adventure that focuses on friendship and teamwork.

SNEAKS

Sixth grader Ben Harp and two of his classmates must stop an alien invasion in their small town.

Eleven-year-old Ben has had a miserable start to Livingston Middle School. He’s having trouble finding his footing socially since Ashok, his Bengali French Canadian best friend, is spending a year abroad in Paris. He also thinks he saw his teacher’s watch crawl across the floor. Things look even grimmer when the school librarian forces him to team up with two loner girls—newcomer Akemi Hanamura and unpopular Charlotte Moss—on a local history project. After interviewing Agatha Bent, the elderly subject they are assigned to, the trio starts to unearth the truth about the mysterious objects they keep seeing. They’re Sneaks—interdimensional aliens who feed on fear and pose as everyday objects or animals, and their presence signals that an even greater evil is intent on destroying Earth. There’s a fun vibe to the plot that channels Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Men in Black, and Stranger Things, but Egan relies too heavily on the tired inattentive-parents device for characterization. Ben’s inventor mom and professor dad are so immersed in work and each other that they leave him to watch over his 7-year-old brother, Leo, and Ben often feels neglected. The story positively explores Ben and Akemi’s growing friendship and the importance of being seen and appreciated, however. Ben and Charlotte read as White; Akemi’s name cues Japanese heritage.

An action-packed adventure that focuses on friendship and teamwork. (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-30640-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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