A fascinating, page-turning tale.

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THE GIRL AND THE GHOST

After the death of the village witch, her pelesit, a cricketlike trickster ghost-familiar, must seek a new master who shares the witch’s bloodline.

Suraya, a lonely, impoverished child who is shunned by the local children and held at an emotional distance by her mother, embraces her pelesit inheritance, lovingly naming him Pink. Pink serves as Suraya’s friend and protector, but his retribution against those he believes have slighted Suraya is impulsive and malicious. Disturbed, Suraya extracts a promise from Pink not to hurt others, ever, unless she is in absolute danger. Pink soon breaks his promise when Suraya is bullied by other girls, but when she finally makes her first human friend, Jing Wei, Pink’s protectiveness takes a dangerously jealous turn. As Suraya struggles with the decision to cut Pink loose, darker forces remind them that Pink is not the only malevolent being around. The author’s middle-grade debut immerses readers in Malaysian culture and food as well as weaving in both Islamic elements and pre-Islamic views of ghosts and death. Though aspects of the novel embrace the disturbing and grotesque (which will delight many readers), its conclusion is grippingly heart-wrenching and speaks to deeper themes of family, trauma, and friendship. Suraya and her family are Malay Muslims while Jing Wei is Chinese Malaysian.

A fascinating, page-turning tale. (Supernatural adventure. 9-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294095-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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Next to the exhilarating renditions of Rosemary Sutcliff (The Wanderings of Odysseus, 1996) and Geraldine McCaughrean...

THE ODYSSEY

An anemic retelling of the epic is paired to crabbed, ugly illustrations.

Breaking for occasional glimpses back to Penelope’s plight in Ithaca, Cross relates Odysseus’ travels in a linear narrative that begins with his departure for Troy but skips quickly over the war’s events to get to the sack of the city of the Cicones and events following. Along with being careless about continuity (Odysseus’ men are “mad with thirst” on one page and a few pages later swilling wine that they had all the time, for instance), the reteller’s language is inconsistent in tone. It is sprinkled with the requisite Homeric references to the “wine-dark sea” and Dawn’s rosy fingers but also breaks occasionally into a modern-sounding idiom: “ ‘What’s going on?’ Athene said, looking around at the rowdy suitors.” Packer decorates nearly every spread with either lacy figures silhouetted in black or gold or coarsely brushed paintings depicting crouching, contorted humans, gods and monsters with, generally, chalky skin, snaggled teeth, beer bellies or other disfigurements. The overall effect is grim, mannered and remote.

Next to the exhilarating renditions of Rosemary Sutcliff (The Wanderings of Odysseus, 1996) and Geraldine McCaughrean (Odysseus, 2004), this version makes bland reading, and the contorted art is, at best a poor match. (afterword, maps) (Illustrated classic. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4791-9

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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