A HOUSE CALLED AWFUL END

VOL. I, THE EDDIE DICKENS TRILOGY

Better known on this side of the Atlantic for series nonfiction, Ardagh kicks off what promises to be yet another Dickensian farce with this tale of an 11-year-old buffeted by winds of silliness. When Eddie’s bedridden parents “turn yellow, go a bit crinkly about the edges, and smell of hot-water bottles,” Mad Uncle Jack and Mad Aunt Maud arrive to sweep him off to their mansion, Awful End. Eddie does arrive safely by the end, but only after several quirky adventures, notably a brief stay in St. Horrid’s Home for Grateful Orphans, run the aptly named Mr. & Mrs. Cruel-Streak. In overt homage to Edward Gorey and Victoria Chess, Roberts gives the figures in his small, spiky drawings exaggerated proportions and big, staring eyes for a comically gothic look. Neither author nor illustrator strays far from conventions long mapped out by Monty Python and legions of literary imitators; recommend this to fans as a placeholder while they wait for new work from the more creative likes of Sid Fleischman, Eva Ibbotson, Joan Aiken, Lemony Snicket, etc. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-8050-6828-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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A satisfying, winning read.

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BOOKED

Nick Hall is a bright eighth-grader who would rather do anything other than pay attention in class.

Instead he daydreams about soccer, a girl he likes, and an upcoming soccer tournament. His linguistics-professor father carefully watches his educational progress, requiring extra reading and word study, much to Nick’s chagrin and protest. Fortunately, his best friend, Coby, shares his passion for soccer—and, sadly, the unwanted attention of twin bullies in their school. Nick senses something is going on with his parents, but their announcement that they are separating is an unexpected blow: “it’s like a bombshell / drops / right in the center / of your heart / and it splatters / all across your life.” The stress leads to counseling, and his life is further complicated by injury and emergency surgery. His soccer dream derailed, Nick turns to the books he has avoided and finds more than he expected. Alexander’s highly anticipated follow-up to Newbery-winning The Crossover is a reflective narrative, with little of the first book’s explosive energy. What the mostly free-verse novel does have is a likable protagonist, great wordplay, solid teen and adult secondary characters, and a clear picture of the challenges young people face when self-identity clashes with parental expectations. The soccer scenes are vivid and will make readers wish for more, but the depiction of Nick as he unlocks his inner reader is smooth and believable.

A satisfying, winning read. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-57098-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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THE BAD BEGINNING

The Baudelaire children—Violet, 14, Klaus, 12, and baby Sunny—are exceedingly ill-fated; Snicket extracts both humor and horror from their situation, as he gleefully puts them through one terrible ordeal after another. After receiving the news that their parents died in a fire, the three hapless orphans are delivered into the care of Count Olaf, who “is either a third cousin four times removed, or a fourth cousin three times removed.” The villainous Count Olaf is morally depraved and generally mean, and only takes in the downtrodden yet valiant children so that he can figure out a way to separate them from their considerable inheritance. The youngsters are able to escape his clutches at the end, but since this is the first installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events, there will be more ghastly doings. Written with old-fashioned flair, this fast-paced book is not for the squeamish: the Baudelaire children are truly sympathetic characters who encounter a multitude of distressing situations. Those who enjoy a little poison in their porridge will find it wicked good fun. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-440766-7

Page Count: 162

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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