The lovable characters, the mystery of the ghost, and the deep friendship between the two children will lead middle graders...

THE PECULIAR NIGHT OF THE BLUE HEART

This middle-grade fantasy thriller stars two orphans, Marybeth and Lionel, and depicts their trouble with a powerful and determined ghost.

“Lionel was a wild boy. Sometimes he forgot he was a boy at all.” On the other hand, “Marybeth was a very normal girl, with dark hair that she wore braided into pigtails, and round spectacles with red metal rims.” Despite their differences, the two white 9-year-olds are firm friends. They escape from the six older, mean orphans in the little red house presided over by the stuffy Mrs. Mannerd by going into the woods nearby, where Lionel sees a blue something that he thinks is a fox. Later, Marybeth sees the mysterious blue light—and is possessed by it. Increasingly frightening events ensue, as they try to discover what the ghost (for that’s what it is) wants Marybeth to do. Precise details and humor at the outset will engage readers’ attention, while tension and suspense will keep those pages turning once they are hooked. The depictions of the children and their guardian as well as of the house and landscape bind the realistic elements of the story together while providing an anchor for the fantasy.

The lovable characters, the mystery of the ghost, and the deep friendship between the two children will lead middle graders back to the author’s A Curious Tale of the In-between (2015) and have them counting the days until her next book. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61963-643-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean.

MUSTACHES FOR MADDIE

A 12-year-old copes with a brain tumor.

Maddie likes potatoes and fake mustaches. Kids at school are nice (except one whom readers will see instantly is a bully); soon they’ll get to perform Shakespeare scenes in a unit they’ve all been looking forward to. But recent dysfunctions in Maddie’s arm and leg mean, stunningly, that she has a brain tumor. She has two surgeries, the first successful, the second taking place after the book’s end, leaving readers hanging. The tumor’s not malignant, but it—or the surgeries—could cause sight loss, personality change, or death. The descriptions of surgery aren’t for the faint of heart. The authors—parents of a real-life Maddie who really had a brain tumor—imbue fictional Maddie’s first-person narration with quirky turns of phrase (“For the love of potatoes!”) and whimsy (she imagines her medical battles as epic fantasy fights and pretends MRI stands for Mustard Rat from Indiana or Mustaches Rock Importantly), but they also portray her as a model sick kid. She’s frightened but never acts out, snaps, or resists. Her most frequent commentary about the tumor, having her skull opened, and the possibility of death is “Boo” or “Super boo.” She even shoulders the bully’s redemption. Maddie and most characters are white; one cringe-inducing hallucinatory surgery dream involves “chanting island natives” and a “witch doctor lady.”

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean. (authors’ note, discussion questions) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62972-330-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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