RISE OF ZOMBERT

From the ZomBert Chronicles series , Vol. 1

There’s something strange about Mellie’s foundling cat…is Bert a zombie?!

Nine-year-old Mellie has no interest in being a part of her parents’ food-and-family blog. Her mother and father (a former freelance writer and former chef, respectively) are so busy with the blog and her twin younger brothers that she’s pretty free-range. She spends a lot of her time helping her best friend, Danny, make horror movies. When the two of them discover a disheveled cat in a dumpster, Mellie feels drawn to the sickly feline; she sneaks him home, names him Bert, and doesn’t tell her parents. Meanwhile the Big Boss of a local lab is not pleased that two of his workers have allowed test subject Y-91 to escape, and he orders them to find it. Bert isn’t interested in cat food or even salmon, but he brings Mellie headless animal corpses…could he be a zombie eating only the animals’ brains?! When Bert’s accused of hurting the school bully’s pet rats (and thus brought to the attention of Mellie’s parents), she may not be able to keep him. This slim series opener feels like the start of a novel more than a whole book, as so much is left unresolved at the close. The parallel stories of Mellie’s discovery of Bert, the search for Y-91, and Bert, as he pursues a mission of his own, will keep young fans of the slightly spooky turning pages…and eager for the next installment. In Andrews’ illustrations, Mellie and her mom have dark skin while her dad and the twins have light skin.

Enjoyably mysterious. (Science fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0106-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale.

A TRUE HOME

From the Heartwood Hotel series , Vol. 1

An orphan mouse unexpectedly arrives at Heartwood Hotel, which she hopes will become the home she’s seeking.

Mona’s never had a home for long. After a storm forces her to flee her latest forest shelter, she discovers an enormous tree with a heart carved into its trunk. When Mona presses the heart, a door opens, and she enters the lobby of Heartwood Hotel, where small forest critters hibernate, eat, and celebrate in safety. The kindhearted badger proprietor, Mr. Heartwood, takes pity on homeless Mona, allowing her to stay for the fall to assist the maid, Tilly, a red squirrel. Grateful to be at Heartwood, Mona strives to prove herself despite Tilly’s unfriendly attitude. Mona’s clever approaches with a wounded songbird, an anxious skunk, and a wayward bear win Mr. Heartwood’s approval. But when Mona accidentally breaks a rule, Tilly convinces her she will be fired. As Mona secretly leaves Heartwood, she discovers marauding wolves planning to crash Heartwood’s Snow Festival and devises a daring plan to save the place she regards as home. Charming anthropomorphic characters, humorous mishaps, and outside threats add to the drama. Delicate pencil illustrations reinforce Heartwood’s cozy home theme. A sequel, The Greatest Gift, publishes simultaneously.

A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale. (Animal fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-3161-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

THE MYSTERIOUS MESSENGER

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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