A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO

From the Grandma Dowdel series , Vol. 1

In a novel that skillfully captures the nuances of small-town life, an elderly man reminisces about his annual trips from Chicago to his grandmother’s house in rural Illinois during the Depression. When the book opens, Joey and his sister, Mary Alice, nine and seven, respectively, learn that they will be spending a week every August with Grandma Dowdel. In eight vignettes, one for each summer from 1929—1935, with the final story set when Joey’s troop train passes through in 1942, Peck (Strays Like Us, 1998) weaves a wry tale that ranges from humorous to poignant. Grandma Dowdel, with her gruff persona and pragmatic outlook on life, embodies not only the heart of a small town but the spirit of an era gone by. She turns the tables on a supercilious reporter from the big city, bests the local sheriff, feeds the drifters of the Depression, inspires a brawl between elderly (ancient) war heroes, and more. Peck deftly captures the feel of the times, from the sublime bliss of rooting around the ice bin at the local store for a nickel Nehi during the dog days of summer, to a thrilling flight in a biplane. Remarkable and fine. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8037-2290-7

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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THE VISCONTI HOUSE

Whether it’s because she would rather write stories alone than hang out with her gossiping classmates or because she lives in the Visconti House, a crumbling Italianate villa (which, everyone assumes, must be haunted), Year 8 Aussie Laura Horton always feels like an outsider. When Leon Murphy, a loner in his own right, moves in with his odd grandmother, Laura notices that they have more in common than she originally thought, including wanting to solve the mystery behind Mr. Visconti, his once-ornate house and the woman he loved. Debut author Edgar’s quiet, old-fashioned storytelling, in which the children can sound older than their years, celebrates curiosity, hidden treasures and impromptu gatherings with spirited and creative family members. In the process of ferreting out the secrets of Mr. Visconti and his formerly splendid estate (with written letters, interviews and intuition rather than the Internet), Laura also discovers friendship, romance and accepting the differences in herself and others. Fans of Blue Balliett and Elise Broach’s Shakespeare’s Secret (2005) will enjoy another puzzle to solve. (author’s note) (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5019-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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Few will make it to the monster’s first mention, nearly halfway through. (Horror. 9-12)

THE MURK

Is there a secret in the swamp that can cure all ills? Piper’s banking on it.

Piper Canfield wished for a baby sister when she learned her parents couldn’t have any more children. She promised to watch over the baby if it came. Miraculously, baby Grace arrived, and Piper has made good on her promise, but one lapse puts Grace in danger when a rabid wolverine threatens her in her bassinet while the family is camping. Grace is fine, but Piper blames her best friend, Tad, and freezes him out. She starts running with the popular, pretty crowd until baby Grace comes down with Alpers syndrome, a virtual death sentence…and Tad suggests they use his ancestor’s notes to search the Okefenokee Swamp for a fabled silver flower that cures all diseases. Piper, Tad, Monty (aka Creeper, Piper’s little brother) and swamp-boat driver Perch head out on what they think will be a one-day excursion, but the wildlife is attacking when it shouldn’t—and something deeper in the swamp is even more dangerous. Readers drawn in by the Goosebumps-like cover will quickly set aside Lettrick’s second animals-attack tale (Frenzy, 2014). The kid characters have an unfortunate tendency to speak like college professors, hampering their development significantly. Also hindering the story’s effectiveness are interspersed excerpts from Tad’s ancestor’s 19th-century diary, rendered in florid prose.

Few will make it to the monster’s first mention, nearly halfway through. (Horror. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4231-8695-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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