Family mysteries are solved thanks to a ballet slipper.

THE SECRET STARLING

Ballet intrigue and a neglected manor in the wild Yorkshire moors take center stage in a tale of who am I and whodunit.

It’s 1974, and Clara has been raised by her authoritarian uncle in falling-apart Braithwaite Manor with governesses and Cook as her only companions. Then Cook is suddenly dismissed and Uncle disappears. Cook’s grandchildren and an orphaned boy from London named Peter suddenly show up, and the old house, which has been put up for sale, is suddenly filled with fun. But Clara wonders about her dead mother, a ballerina, and the identity of her father, about whom her uncle refused to speak. After she and Peter find an old ballet shoe, they travel to London together to research her mother in archival newspapers. While there, they uncover critical information about Peter’s neighbor and why Uncle disappeared. Events unfold quickly, with Rudolf Nureyev’s defection from the Kirov Ballet a key plot element. Rioux’s atmospheric, full-page, black-and-white artwork lends a nostalgic feel to the work. Unfortunately, some of the characters’ connections and motivations are not sufficiently explained, and the text lacks the humor and humanity that would elevate it above the credulity-straining plot. The characters default to White; two of Cook’s grandchildren read as Black in the illustrations.

Family mysteries are solved thanks to a ballet slipper. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1365-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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An intense referendum on football’s dangers and glories.

FINAL SEASON

A star 12-year-old quarterback has a championship to win, a developing family tragedy to cope with, and a life-changing decision to make.

Barely disguising the autobiographical elements contained here in the wake of his own diagnosis of ALS, former Atlanta Falcons player Green places his protagonist, Ben Redd, in a football family and on an upstate New York team coached by his dad and two older brothers—all former gridiron stars themselves. Ben’s anticipation as he looks forward to a season that will be capped by a game against archrival Penn Yan battles with his terror as he watches his father’s NFL injuries come home to roost in slurred speech, loss of physical coordination, and, eventually, a frantic trip to the hospital for an emergency tracheotomy. But as Ben’s parents, both iron willed, clash over whether he should be allowed to follow the family career path (and one of his brothers even announces that none of his kids will ever play), the sport’s allure comes through in a series of exciting clashes, with Ben and wonderfully hard-nosed new teammate, Thea Jean, leading the on-field heroics on the way to a last-yard, smash-mouth finale that leaves him dazed and exultant, with a broken finger, a probable concussion…and a choice of futures. Though the cast is mostly male and mostly White, between them, Thea and Ben’s mom add strong female representation.

An intense referendum on football’s dangers and glories. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-248595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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The series keeps cruising along…though iffy casting may be an early sign that it’s losing steam.

SPY SCHOOL AT SEA

From the Spy School series , Vol. 9

In a new caper, the Spy School team thwarts a fiendish scheme on the high seas.

A fresh chance to catch up to world-class gourmand and perennial foe Murray Hill plants dogged CIA junior agent Ben Ripley and associates—including markedly more competent classmate Erica Hale and her equally able mom, Catherine—aboard the Emperor of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, for a fresh round of ridiculously destructive chases, startling twists, and repeated attempts on the hapless young spy’s life that are somehow always averted in the nick of time. Along with adding a grandfatherly, eco-conscious Costa Rican drug lord to the supporting cast, Gibbs flirts with stereotypes by trotting in, among the few characters who don’t at least present as White, a Chinese teen given to muddling her English idioms, her bling-loving mother, and a chipper shipboard event manager of Australian Indigenous descent. Still, the revved-up plot will leave readers as breathless as Ben is in the wake of a final, unexpected turn in his relationship with Erica. Finally, finally nabbing the slobby supervillain (at least for now) as well as saving the lives of hundreds of oblivious, hard-partying onboard tourists must count for something.

The series keeps cruising along…though iffy casting may be an early sign that it’s losing steam. (Thriller. 10-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7943-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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