A pitch-perfect page-turner.

THE GHOST OF MIDNIGHT LAKE

When her life changes overnight, Agatha finds herself in the middle of a ghost story, bravely unraveling her family’s hidden truths.

It’s the turn of the 20th century in England, and 12-year-old Agatha is forced into a new life. Upon her father’s death, she is disinherited from Gosswater Hall after learning that she was secretly—and not entirely legally—adopted, and her greedy, malicious cousin, Clarence, is taking over the vast estate. Agatha is sent to live with her biological father in his modest farm cottage, but she’s bent on undoing Clarence’s evil and fighting for what has been bequeathed to her—the Queen Stone, a priceless family heirloom whose whereabouts are unknown—and discovering the truth about who she is. Strange’s writing makes for a compelling read full of vivid descriptions and characters that are well imagined and richly drawn. Agatha is a strong and capable female lead, vulnerable enough to be believable and brave enough to remake her life. Others, like the midwife and mystic Moll Speedwell, a cantankerous goose named Susan, and Agatha’s friend Bryn, are irresistible, lively, fully formed characters. The titular ghost and other atmospheric elements evoke Brontë-an imagery just enough to spook but not terrorize. The story hits the right note thanks to expert plotting and pacing, with each twist and turn setting up what’s to come without being overly predictable. Characters are presumed White.

A pitch-perfect page-turner. (Historical mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-68643-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Pratchett-like worldbuilding centers immigrant kids in a story filled with culture, humor, and heart.

THE YEAR I FLEW AWAY

At home in Haiti, 10-year-old Gabrielle Marie Jean loves the rain, scary stories, beating the boys in mango-eating contests, and her family, most of all.

When her parents’ paperwork issues mean she must immigrate to the United States alone, every heavenly thing she believes about America can’t outweigh the sense of dread she feels in leaving everything she knows behind. A preternaturally sensitive child, Gabrielle feels responsible for not only her own success, but her whole family’s, so the stakes of moving in with her uncle, aunt, and cousins in Brooklyn are high—even before Lady Lydia, a witch, tries to steal her essence. Lydia makes her an offer she can’t refuse: achieving assimilation. Arnold skillfully fuses distinct immigrant experiences with the supernatural to express a universally felt desire for belonging. Gabrielle desperately wants to fit in despite the xenophobia she experiences every day and despite making new, accepting friends in Mexican American Carmen and Rocky the talking rat-rabbit. But in trying to change herself, Gabrielle risks giving Lydia the power to conquer Brooklyn. Gabrielle is a charming narrator, and of course, good guy (girl) magic wins out in the end, but the threat to immigrant lives and identities is presented poignantly nonetheless in this richly imaginative origin story of one Haitian American girl that offers a fantastical take on immigrant narratives.

Pratchett-like worldbuilding centers immigrant kids in a story filled with culture, humor, and heart. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-27275-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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