Despite dire warnings, this magical journey winds up being mostly pleasant and perky, just like its heroine.


From the Clover Twig series , Vol. 2

Resourceful Clover, her witchy (but benevolent) employer Mrs. Eckles, Clover’s clumsy friend Wilf and, of course, Mrs. Eckles’ sister, the evil Mesmeranza, are all back for another low-key adventure (Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage, 2009).

Set in a somewhat generic fantasyland peopled by witches, villagers and the odd troll, this sequel should appeal to fans of the first book but relies a bit too much on familiarity with that volume to be truly accessible to newcomers. On the other hand, it’s an easy and engaging read that will be gobbled up by fans of traditional tales, many of whom may be inspired to check out the first installment. There’s mild danger—or at least the hint of it—magical creatures and some humorous jabs at newfangled technology. Clover and Wilf each find a new friend as they travel the Perilous Path, along which they also encounter scary clowns, stuck-up girls and enticing illusions. What they don’t have much luck finding is Herbie, Clover’s little brother, whose disappearance sets the story in motion. Umansky’s characters are once again charmingly quirky, and she peppers her tale with amusingly outlandish events. Wright's comical black-and-white illustrations, sprinkled throughout, seem pitched to the younger end of the intended audience but definitely suit the lighthearted tone.

Despite dire warnings, this magical journey winds up being mostly pleasant and perky, just like its heroine. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-754-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Newbery Medal Winner


Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?