The unwieldy plot twists and turns, always creating new questions, but it leaves an uncomfortably large aperture—an...


Twelve-year-old Hannah Silver, armed solely with some newfound knowledge and her three imaginary friends, crosses a forbidden threshold to try to find the soul of her recently, unexpectedly deceased—likely murdered—mother.

During the same week in which she begins public school after years of home schooling, Hannah learns that two mysterious visitors to her and her mother’s solitary lighthouse existence are returned-from-the-dead Watchers and that she and her mother are Guardians: humans charged with guarding the only door from the world of the living to the city of the dead. Shortly after the visit, Hannah finds her mother’s corpse and, grief-stricken, enters the city of the dead. Once there, she engages in a thrill-a-minute fantasy adventure, touring surreal, sometimes–high-tech neighborhoods populated by souls working toward something called Ascension—think Dante’s circles as written by J.K. Rowling. The short chapters end with suspenseful hooks to keep pages turning, and the pace accelerates exponentially. The third-person-omniscient storytelling, coupled with plenty of humor, keeps the darker implications of the tale at bay. Hannah’s new friends in the afterlife are especially delightful—particularly artistic Stefan, with his pet chameleon and magical paintbrush. The trope-heavy text contains some swipes at bureaucracy, ideologues and belief systems.

The unwieldy plot twists and turns, always creating new questions, but it leaves an uncomfortably large aperture—an unfinished hero’s journey or, more aptly, a literary purgatory. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-55137-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and...


Catrina narrates the story of her mixed-race (Latino/white) family’s move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna on the Northern California coast.

Dad has a new job, but it’s little sister Maya’s lungs that motivate the move: she has had cystic fibrosis since birth—a degenerative breathing condition. Despite her health, Maya loves adventure, even if her lungs suffer for it and even when Cat must follow to keep her safe. When Carlos, a tall, brown, and handsome teen Ghost Tour guide introduces the sisters to the Bahía ghosts—most of whom were Spanish-speaking Mexicans when alive—they fascinate Maya and she them, but the terrified Cat wants only to get herself and Maya back to safety. When the ghost adventure leads to Maya’s hospitalization, Cat blames both herself and Carlos, which makes seeing him at school difficult. As Cat awakens to the meaning of Halloween and Day of the Dead in this strange new home, she comes to understand the importance of the ghosts both to herself and to Maya. Telgemeier neatly balances enough issues that a lesser artist would split them into separate stories and delivers as much delight textually as visually. The backmatter includes snippets from Telgemeier’s sketchbook and a photo of her in Día makeup.

Telgemeier’s bold colors, superior visual storytelling, and unusual subject matter will keep readers emotionally engaged and unable to put down this compelling tale. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-54061-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Entrancing and uplifting.


A small dog, the elderly woman who owns him, and a homeless girl come together to create a tale of serendipity.

Piper, almost 12, her parents, and her younger brother are at the bottom of a long slide toward homelessness. Finally in a family shelter, Piper finds that her newfound safety gives her the opportunity to reach out to someone who needs help even more. Jewel, mentally ill, lives in the park with her dog, Baby. Unwilling to leave her pet, and forbidden to enter the shelter with him, she struggles with the winter weather. Ree, also homeless and with a large dog, helps when she can, but after Jewel gets sick and is hospitalized, Baby’s taken to the animal shelter, and Ree can’t manage the complex issues alone. It’s Piper, using her best investigative skills, who figures out Jewel’s backstory. Still, she needs all the help of the shelter Firefly Girls troop that she joins to achieve her accomplishment: to raise enough money to provide Jewel and Baby with a secure, hopeful future and, maybe, with their kindness, to inspire a happier story for Ree. Told in the authentic alternating voices of loving child and loyal dog, this tale could easily slump into a syrupy melodrama, but Pyron lets her well-drawn characters earn their believable happy ending, step by challenging step, by reaching out and working together. Piper, her family, and Jewel present white; Pyron uses hair and naming convention, respectively, to cue Ree as black and Piper’s friend Gabriela as Latinx.

Entrancing and uplifting. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-283922-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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