Beautiful storytelling as only Curtis can do it.

THE MADMAN OF PINEY WOODS

From the Buxton Chronicles series , Vol. 2

Forty years after Elijah Freeman’s exploits in Elijah of Buxton (2007), 13-year-olds Benji Alston and Red Stockard become friends as Curtis revisits Buxton, Ontario, in a fine companion novel.

Benji and Red don’t meet for 200 pages, their separate lives in 1901 related in alternating first-person narratives. Benji, an African-Canadian boy in Buxton, and Red, a white boy of Irish descent living in nearby Chatham, have fairly ordinary and free lives. Benji dreams of becoming the best newspaperman in North America; Red mostly wants to survive his crazy Grandmother O’Toole. Echoes of history underlie the tale: Benji lives in a community settled by former slaves; Red is the grandson of a woman haunted by the Irish Potato Famine and the horrors of coffin ships on the St. Lawrence River. Both boys know the legend of a mysterious creature in the woods, called the Madman of Piney Woods by Benji, the South Woods Lion Man by Red. And, indeed, this “madman” and his woods ultimately tie the whole story together in a poignant and life-affirming manner. Humor and tragedy are often intertwined, and readers will find themselves sobbing and chuckling, sometimes in the same scene. Though this story stands alone, it will be even more satisfying for those who have read Elijah of Buxton.

Beautiful storytelling as only Curtis can do it. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-15664-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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A voyage both singular and universal, marked by sharply felt risks and rewards and deep waters beneath.

NORTHWIND

A solitary young traveler paddles through an archipelago of natural, often dangerous, wonders, learning as he goes.

Though the metaphorical layer lies barely beneath the surface in this short novel, Paulsen’s spare prose and legendary knowledge of the challenges and techniques of wilderness survival make the journey through a landscape that evokes historical Scandinavia compelling reading. Sole survivor—and that just barely—of the gruesomely depicted cholera that sweeps through his camp, 12-year-old Leif comes away with a dugout canoe, a few basic outdoor skills, and the command from a dying, respected elder to head north. Subsisting largely on blackberries and salmon, he travels a winding route through fjords and a seemingly endless string of islets and inlets where he finds both danger and delight in searching for food and shelter, literally coming face to face with bears and whales, struggling to survive a deadly tidal whirlpool, and coming to understand the importance of seeing and learning from the ways and rhythms of “this place and all places that will come to me.” Calling on memories, Paulsen writes in an autobiographical afterword of his Norwegian immigrant grandmother’s tales. References to Odin and whalers give the setting a timelessly folkloric feeling. Final art not seen.

A voyage both singular and universal, marked by sharply felt risks and rewards and deep waters beneath. (Historical adventure. 9-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-31420-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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