A rollicking read for individuals and book clubs alike.


There’s gold in them there pages.

Teele takes her readers on a lively adventure through the hills of a small town called Eden in the waning years of the gold rush. In the mostly white small town of Eden, life for 12-year-old Jenny Burns is about to become a lot more complicated. Jenny’s father, a former prospector, is about to lose his job and their home. With the threat of leaving Eden and her best friend, Pandora, looming, Jenny embarks on a mission to find a rumored golden nugget that’s “bigger than a cowbell.” Jenny teams up with Pandora, a pair of friendly Chinese brothers, and a slew of former prospectors to find the gold. But can those last truly be trusted? When part of the map falls into the hands of one of Jenny’s greatest nemeses, the race is on to see who can deduce the clues faster. Teele injects a lot of personality into Jenny and her friends. Cryptography lessons are seamlessly interwoven into the story, and fans of puzzles and mysteries will eat them up. Teele—or at least her intrusive narrator—has never met a simile that she didn’t like, but the sprinkling of antiquated words and phrases adds a pleasant touch to the story. The gentle subplots of heredity, illness, death, and conservation are an added bonus.

A rollicking read for individuals and book clubs alike. (Historical mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-234513-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...


A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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An action-packed fantasy containing a surprising twist.


From the Society of Explorers and Adventurers series , Vol. 1

An old curse and untapped magic lead a boy on a worldwide quest to save his aunt.

Ever since 13-year-old Shinji Takahashi’s parents died, he and his Aunt Yui have lived a life that includes months of travels, hunting for unique items for her shop in Miami. While floating down the Zambezi River, Shinji comes upon a mysterious shop with a small figurine of a Coatl, or mythical feathered serpent, that seems to be calling to him. But after he buys it, Shinji is kidnapped and held captive by the Hightower Corporation in New York City. Aunt Yui is nowhere to be seen—and the Coatl figurine has transformed itself into a tattoo on Shinji’s arm. A Hightower villain informs him that it brings with it a deadly curse. Meanwhile, young prodigy Lucy, who has been working for the corporation, appears in Shinji’s room in the middle of the night: After overhearing Hightower’s evil plans for him, she decides to help him break out. Lucy suggests reaching out to the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, Hightower’s archrivals, for help returning the Coatl to its original temple and finding Shinji’s aunt. This intriguing venture builds to a compelling climax. One question that remains unanswered is why Japanese American Shinji, who has no Mesoamerican heritage, is chosen by the Coatl to be its rescuer; perhaps this will be resolved in the next entry in this new series.

An action-packed fantasy containing a surprising twist. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-368-06819-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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