An engaging series opener about the power of truth to moor and free even the sulkiest of souls.


Third grader Harriet is convinced that she’s in for a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad summer.

Her mother is having a difficult pregnancy, so Harriet is getting shipped off for the summer to stay with her grandmother who runs a bed-and-breakfast on Marble Island. She’s always loved short visits to the tranquil island with her parents, but spending two whole months there without them means change, and Harriet does not like change. She especially doesn’t like the idea of getting a new sibling. Fortunately, she’s got her beloved cat Matzo Ball to keep her company on Marble Island, and when she finds a beautiful old key in her grandmother’s shed, things start to pick up. Suddenly, there’s a mystery to be solved, one involving her dad’s childhood on the island and Miss Marble, the witty centenarian who is the island’s namesake. And when Harriet befriends a sharp-eyed ornithologist whom everyone calls Captain, she discovers that there’s as much to learn about herself as there is about the island’s history. A flawed but intriguing heroine from the start, Harriet’s stubbornness, hot temper, and habit of lying will undoubtedly draw comparisons to the titular character in Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series. Cranky, crotchety kids will find a kindred spirit in this young girl who longs to be understood and to understand the puzzling world of adults. Meanwhile, the mystery of the antique key yields a solution better than a secret garden. All major characters read as White.

An engaging series opener about the power of truth to moor and free even the sulkiest of souls. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-309204-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.


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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Good-hearted fun—great for fans of Kit Feeny and Babymouse.


From the Yeti Files series , Vol. 1

It’s a Bigfeet family reunion!

Everyone’s favorite frosty, furry cryptid, the yeti, actually has a name: Blizz Richards. From his supersecret HQ in Nepal he keeps in touch with his fellow cryptids, all of whom have sworn an oath to keep themselves hidden. That’s not always easy, especially when there are cryptozoologists, like the nasty (but bumbling) George Vanquist, who are always trying to expose the secretive creatures. Vanquist got a picture of Blizz’s cousin Brian near his home in British Columbia, causing the mortified Brian to disappear entirely. When Blizz receives an invitation to a Bigfeet family reunion in Canada, he calls his buddies Alexander (one of Santa’s elves), Gunthar (a goblin) and Frank the Arctic fox to help him get ready. When they arrive in Canada, Brian is still nowhere to be seen. Can Blizz and his skunk ape and other sasquatch cousins find Brian, have the reunion and evade Vanquist? If anyone can, the Bigfeet clan can. Illustrator Sherry’s first volume in the Yeti Files is a fast and funny graphic-prose tale full of labeled pictures and comic-style panels. Those just starting chapter books may have some trouble with a few big words, but they’ll enjoy the big friendly monsters and immediately ask for the next tale—which looks to be about the Loch Ness monster.

Good-hearted fun—great for fans of Kit Feeny and Babymouse. (Graphic/fantasy hybrid. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-55617-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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