- Notorious by Gordon Korman
Korman, Gordon Notorious. Balzer + Bray, 2020 [320p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-279886-2 $16.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-279888-6 $10.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4-7
On hiatus from his expat life with Mom and stepfather, Keenan is now with his father in Centerlight, Michigan, an island that shares a border with Canada, while he recovers from a bout of internationally acquired tuberculosis. He's out of the woods, medically, but slow-moving and bored as all get out, with nothing much to do but play Xbox and stare at his phone. That changes with the appearance of ZeeBee and her adorable spaniel, Barney Two, whom she despises as a pooch who doesn't live up to the original Barney, a mastiff-sized frankendog that until recently terrorized the island, and that she believes to have been murdered. As Keenan regains strength, he's amused by motor-mouthed ZeeBee, her conspiracy tales about Barney, and her almost too thrilling to believe tales of the gangsters who plied their international trade here in the days of Prohibition. When school starts, though, he makes friends with the kids who go to the Michigan school, setting off explosions of jealousy in ZeeBee, who ferries off island to the Canadian school, where she has no pals. Korman weaves this into a mystery of buried gangster treasure that is less involving than his exploration of northern border town dynamics as they play out, serio-comically, in the lives of rambunctious middle-schoolers. Deceased Barney and lively Barney Two are important catalysts and fully realized personalities in all aspects of the plot, which will be an additional boon—and book-talking point—for dog story lovers. Korman is reliably at the head of the pack in middle-grade quirkiness, and his fans will be well pleased with this fresh title.