White bread. Consider Jane O’Connor’s Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth (2012) instead.

MYSTERY AT BLUE RIDGE CEMETERY

From the Spotlight Club Mysteries series

After a long hiatus, the Spotlight Club Mysteries return with a new posthumous entry and a paperback reprint of another.

Blond siblings Cindy and Jay, of indeterminate age, and their neighbor Dexter, distinct mainly because he wears glasses, solve mysteries together in a fictional town so mild it could be a Beverly Cleary setting. However, whereas the physical safety of Klickitat Street exists to highlight emotional and developmental depth, Parry and Pierce’s town—Kenoska—houses whodunits (or what-is-its) that characters easily glide through, enthusiastic but free from disputes or sweat. In this world, adult strangers are no actual threat, and a child can pick up prescription medication. (In contrast, kid-made gravestone rubbings sell for $15 apiece. Really?) The kids bike around town between home and the cemetery, earning money to save a museum and forging connections among a wrought-iron bench, a missing locket, feuding adult sisters and a long-dead artist. Answers are too thin, results too perfect. A second title, publishing simultaneously, Mystery of the Bewitched Bookmobile, offers a bit more meat and interest—climbing into a bookmobile in the dark; decoding a painted sign—but feels even more dated due to old-fashioned telephone numbers and a librarian (Cindy’s role model) who wants nothing more than to be asked on a date.

White bread. Consider Jane O’Connor’s Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth (2012) instead. (Mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7695-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

THE MYSTERIOUS MESSENGER

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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