As always, Avi weaves accurate historical detail into his story and builds up tension expertly. Kenny escapes his dilemma by...


            A suspenseful tale of multiple hauntings, time travel, and murder in old Rhode Island.

            Young Kenny Huldorf’s room in an 18th-century Providence house comes complete with bloodstained floor and the ghost of Caleb, a slave murdered nearly 200 years ago.  Naturally prompted to do some research in the local historical-society library, Kenny meets the crabbed, sinister Pardon Willinghast, who seems to know more about Kenny’s house than he’ll tell.  Caleb appears repeatedly, claiming that he will never rest until his killer is discovered; he cajoles a reluctant Kenny into promising help, then takes him back to that fateful night in 1800 – whereupon, in effect, Kenny becomes the ghost.  He also receives a dreadful shock:  Willinghast is there, waiting for him – it seems that Caleb has brought back others before, but Willinghast is absolutely determined that Caleb should die.  Kenny is given the same choice as his predecessors:  kill Caleb or stay trapped in the past.

            As always, Avi weaves accurate historical detail into his story and builds up tension expertly.  Kenny escapes his dilemma by shooting Willinghast; he returns to the present confused, disturbed, and still haunted, this time by the memory of his own act of violence.  The author presents this as a true story, told to him on a school visit by a young fan, and indeed it does have a realistically indeterminate end.  A thoughtful, spooky, ingenious treat for ghost-story fans.                     (Fiction.  12-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1988

ISBN: 0545214912

Page Count: 148

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1988

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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.


For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.


From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

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