A fascinating, intricate tale of friendship and rescue.



From the Greenglass House series

Another of Milford’s Nagspeake tales, brimful of intrigue, plucky wannabe adventurers, and some suspiciously artful iron.

Marzana Hakelbarend and Nialla Giddis are bored. Supremely bored. In the Liberty of Gammerbund, “the place where nothing happens,” they stake out even the most innocuous of interactions in hopes of uncovering some dastardly plot—alas, to no avail. A mysterious dinner guest from the city proper, however, upends the Hakelbarends’ tranquil domesticity with news that a mayoral candidate’s 11-year-old daughter has been kidnapped. Marzana’s parents don’t seem to consider the girl’s being held in Gammerbund a possibility, so Marzana, sick of being denied access to her parents’ pasts and (mis)adventures, decides to spearhead her own investigation with the help of an assembled six-kid band dubbed the Thief Knot. The offbeat, impassioned narration twists through uncertainties, anxieties, failures, and triumphs at a jaunty clip. Observant readers will delight in piecing together the clues to puzzle out the knots alongside the Knot as these well-drawn individuals grow from awkward semiacquaintances into a close, cohesive team. Colorful supporting characters further populate this complex world. A particular strength is Milford’s depiction of parent-child relationships; rather than taking the easy way out and making the parents dead, abusive, or absent, she makes them affectionate, invested enough in their children’s well-being to grow livid upon discovering they’ve been conspiring behind their backs to get involved in a dangerous crime. Marzana is biracial, with a pale mother and dark-skinned father; Nialla presents white; other characters are diverse.

A fascinating, intricate tale of friendship and rescue. (Mystery/fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-46689-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...


A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)


From the Plot to Kill Hitler series , Vol. 1

Near the end of World War II, two kids join their parents in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.

Max, 12, lives with his parents and his older sister in a Berlin that’s under constant air bombardment. During one such raid, a mortally wounded man stumbles into the white German family’s home and gasps out his last wish: “The Führer must die.” With this nighttime visitation, Max and Gerta discover their parents have been part of a resistance cell, and the siblings want in. They meet a colorful band of upper-class types who seem almost too whimsical to be serious. Despite her charming levity, Prussian aristocrat and cell leader Frau Becker is grimly aware of the stakes. She enlists Max and Gerta as couriers who sneak forged identification papers to Jews in hiding. Max and Gerta are merely (and realistically) cogs in the adults’ plans, but there’s plenty of room for their own heroism. They escape capture, rescue each other when they’re caught out during an air raid, and willingly put themselves repeatedly at risk to catch a spy. The fictional plotters—based on a mix of several real anti-Hitler resistance cells—are portrayed with a genuine humor, giving them the space to feel alive even in such a slim volume.

It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35902-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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