Haunting, engrossing, and thoughtful.

THE IN-BETWEEN

Chicago siblings Cooper and Jess unravel a mystery involving Elena, their strange new neighbor, and a series of historical disasters.

Cooper’s been cold and withdrawn from family and friends alike ever since his parents’ marriage imploded and his father left them to start a new family. His younger sister, Jess, finds a nearly 100-year-old mystery—the Charfield railway disaster in England, where one of the dead was a boy, never identified, who was wearing a distinctive raven insignia that matches the one on Elena’s private school blazer. Digging into the raven emblem, they find it appears on items worn by unidentified bodies after disasters. The more Cooper and Jess investigate, the more impossible everything seems. Soon, the supernatural takes on a darker cast, as Jess and Cooper discover that they’re the ones in danger. The supernatural storyline’s fear is juxtaposed with Cooper’s inner turmoil. His intense emotional life is a constant grounding font of relatability, as he deals with anger, grief, and humiliation in the wake of his father’s abandonment. The increasingly dangerous supernatural mystery (with an exceptionally well-described climax) is intriguing enough to make this a page-turner, but the characters and their powerfully thematic emotional journeys are what will make the book linger. Absent most physical descriptors, characters default to White. Jess is diabetic, and their family deals with economic hardship and classism.

Haunting, engrossing, and thoughtful. (author’s note) (Supernatural mystery. 8-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-291609-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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