A smart and worthy mystery.

WHO KILLED DARIUS DRAKE?

A MYSTERY

In a typical Philbrick (The Big Dark, 2016, etc.) combination of humor and insight, two kids become unlikely partners in detection.

In this comfortable whodunit for readers discovering the genre, genius white orphan Darius takes the role of lead investigator, while fat white kid Arthur Bash narrates the unfolding plot. “Thug-for-hire” Arthur, also known as Bash Man, plays the role of class heavy, taking payment in candy bars from kids who want someone scared. Darius offers Arthur three Snickers bars to win his protection as he investigates the note—written in blood—asking, “Who killed Darius Drake?” Soon both boys are headed into the scary Stompanado projects and confronting the legendary Scar Man. It’s all somehow connected to the mysterious disappearance of a diamond necklace estimated to be worth $15 million. With the addition of Deirdre, Arthur’s bubbly white stepsister, the detective team is off and running through libraries and official records as well as contacting a local historian. Frighteningly perilous encounters ensue. While readers will ID the bad guy, there are enough red herrings to keep them engaged along the way. Throughout, it becomes clear to both readers and kids that the old saw Arthur quotes, “never judge a book by its cover,” applies to all concerned: smarter-than-he-acts Arthur, frightening Scar Man, and their down-and-out postindustrial town—Philbrick’s interrogations of class assumptions are pointed.

A smart and worthy mystery. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-78978-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

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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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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