Charming and funny, this winning adventure also finds time for its middle school sleuths to develop real maturity

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES MEETS HER MATCH

From the Great Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 2

John Watson’s known minisleuth Shelby Holmes for only three weeks, but he already knows sixth grade will be significantly enlivened with Shelby’s cases to solve.

John, an Army brat settled down for the first time, makes friends easily in his new Harlem magnet school for the arts. But though he loves his new multiethnic crew—they play video games, shoot hoops, and discuss Mozart sonatas and modern art—he can’t deny the thrill of solving cases. Even when Shelby is patronizing (always!) or rude to their clients (also always!), John’s excited, but maybe taking a case for their teacher who doesn’t want their help is just a tad over the line. To investigate a villainous private school headmistress, John and Shelby go undercover, Shelby disguised as prim little “Basia Rathbone” in one of several in-jokes for adult readers. John worries about lying to his mother as well as about being a black boy undercover in a rich neighborhood (something that doesn’t occur to Shelby, who’s white), but it doesn’t occur to him to worry about his diabetes. And it doesn’t occur to either of them that anyone could get the better of Shelby, until they meet nasty and brilliant, rich, olive-skinned Moira Hardy.

Charming and funny, this winning adventure also finds time for its middle school sleuths to develop real maturity . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68119-054-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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Flimsily entertaining

THE SECRET OF WHITE STONE GATE

From the Black Hollow Lane series , Vol. 2

An American schoolgirl in a British boarding school battles a secret society in this adventure.

In this trope-y sequel to The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane (2019), the students at Wellsworth must stay safe from the evil order that’s been there for generations and still entangles their parents. Emmy, a white, well-to-do Connecticut 12-year-old, is determined to return to Wellsworth even though last year she was nearly killed. The Order of Black Hollow Lane, the mysterious bad guys who are disguised as the school’s Latin Society, want something from Emmy. Her long-lost father, for one, and Emmy’s box of medallions, for another. Why? Do they really need a reason aside from being an evil club full of wickedness determined to find a whole box of MacGuffins that will somehow make them even richer and more powerful or at least propel the plot? In any case the dastardly fiends plague Emmy, framing one of her best friends for theft and leaving cryptic notes and computer files to threaten the lives of Emmy’s loved ones. Though the Order has infiltrated this (nearly all-white, wealthy) school for generations, Emmy must somehow defeat them and save her dad. The quest is peppered with spy-thriller moments that are mostly only thinly sketched and go nowhere, though some (such as a disguise right out of Scooby Doo cartoons) are funny enough to keep the action moving.

Flimsily entertaining . (Adventure. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6467-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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Contrived at some points, polemic at others, but a stout defense of the right to read.

BAN THIS BOOK

A shy fourth-grader leads the revolt when censors decimate her North Carolina school’s library.

In a tale that is dominated but not overwhelmed by its agenda, Gratz takes Amy Anne, a young black bibliophile, from the devastating discovery that her beloved From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler has been removed from the library at the behest of Mrs. Spencer, a despised classmate’s mom, to a qualified defense of intellectual freedom at a school board meeting: “Nobody has the right to tell you what books you can and can’t read except your parents.” Meanwhile, as more books vanish, Amy Anne sets up a secret lending library of banned titles in her locker—a ploy that eventually gets her briefly suspended by the same unsympathetic principal who fires the school’s doctorate-holding white librarian for defiantly inviting Dav Pilkey in for an author visit. Characters frequently serve as mouthpieces for either side, sometimes deadly serious and other times tongue-in-cheek (“I don’t know about you guys, but ever since I read Wait Till Helen Comes, I’ve been thinking about worshipping Satan”). Indeed, Amy Anne’s narrative is positively laced with real titles that have been banned or challenged and further enticing teasers for them.

Contrived at some points, polemic at others, but a stout defense of the right to read. (discussion guide) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8556-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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