CHASING VERMEER

Art, intrigue, and plenty of twists and turns make this art mystery a great read. Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay set out to find the connection between their teacher (a freewheeling constructivist teacher), the eccentric woman in their neighborhood, the bookstore owner, and an international art thief. Balliett intersperses fascinating information about Johannes Vermeer and his paintings throughout the two friends’ quest to solve the mystery—a mystery layered with pentominoes (a mathematical tool consisting of 12 pieces), puzzling clues, and suspicious strangers. Helquist’s detailed black-and-white chapter illustrations hold hidden messages, clues related to the pentominoes, and more puzzles. Fans of E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler or Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game will find equal pleasure in this debut by a talented writer. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-439-37294-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2004

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SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE BAKER STREET IRREGULARS

THE FALL OF THE AMAZING ZALINDAS, CASEBOOK NO. 1

In a fresh go at an angle taken by Robert Newman back in the ’80s, Mack and Citrin present a hitherto-undocumented case from the point of view of the squad of street children Holmes occasionally employed. Here, the theft of a hidden treasure from Buckingham Palace and the deaths of three high-wire acrobats in a seeming accident are linked and the culprits identified. This is thanks to sharp detective work by lead urchin Wiggins; his new young associate Ozzy, an asthmatic, newly orphaned apprentice forger; and (to the discomposure of the misogynistic Holmes) Pilar, a Romany fortuneteller’s daughter with the handy ability to read lips. The authors fold in plenty of characters and references from the Holmes canon, as well as an embedded code that hints at sequels. They close with various notes on period hats, transportation and other topics. Comics artist Ruth provides a few atmospheric illustrations to this fast-paced, authentically styled caper. (cast list, endpaper map) (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-439-82836-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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Inventive worldbuilding, but way too much is left unexplained and unresolved.

ESCAPE FROM ZOBADAK

Four children find their way into another world through a hidden doorway in a mysterious old piece of furniture.

Gallagher elaborates on this oddly familiar premise by (eventually) explaining that the right sort of wooden joinery will link furniture from any place or time. Billy, his little sister Sophie and their friends Chris and Maggie discover a seemingly endless maze of hallways lined with doors and drawers full of strange artifacts by crawling into a nightstand belonging to missing Uncle Gary. The labyrinth is actually a “cabinet of curiosities” that brilliant carpenters of many generations have been building to store treasures like Excalibur and the Thunderbird Photograph. Before this is explained, however, the four children have spent many chapters wandering the halls at random—and also being menaced in the outside world by animated wooden puppets from the fictional “Zobadak Wood Company,” who are after Uncle Gary and the nightstand at the command of a shadowy figure named Brope. Along with introducing scads of enigmatic elements from flocks of aggressive crows to a mischievous fairy, the author injects artificial melodrama into the tale by having Billy and Sophie rescue their pointlessly kidnapped parents. He clumsily tries for comic relief by casting the puppets as inept Abbott-and-Costello types and with no perceptible rationale closes by having all of the adults stonewall or downplay everything that has happened.

Inventive worldbuilding, but way too much is left unexplained and unresolved. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-934133-32-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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