Book reviews

The Things Owen Wrote

"An unusual and moving novel." ~ School Library Journal, October, 2017

"This is a gentle novel of love, loss, and self-fulfilment, all intertwining in Owen's life. The present-tense, third-person narrative primarily focuses on Owen's point of view, permitting a believable and nuanced exploration of his emerging self-awareness. Owen, Neville, and Owen's dead but much-missed grandmother Aileen are fully realized characters. Even the (real) poet Stephansson emerges from the pages of this quiet tale. A tender and affecting coming-of age story (Fiction. 10-14)." ~ Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2017

The Missing Dog is Spotted

"What distinguishes Kerrin's middle-grade novels, The Spotted Dog Last Seen and The Missing Dog is Spotted, is that despite what they are on the surface - stories with sensitive preadolescence male protagonists, a mystery and a celebration of things literary - they can also work as guidebooks for children dealing with loss. The emotional situations that the protagonists face are the human conditions under which adults stagger: death, guilt and the transitory nature of all things. Kerrin's novels are about human resilience, self-acceptance, forgiveness and recognizing the goodness that endures, even while accepting that loss is inevitable and some losses are irreplaceable. Treating these themes so honestly and, ultimately, hopefully for young readers deserves recognition." Aliki Tryphonopoulos, Canadian Children's Booknews, summer 2015

"Kerrin writes with unusual perception about the emotional lives of young people." Booklist, May 2015

"Funny, absorbing and touching, The Missing Dog is Spotted resonates with the riches to be found in unexpected friendships and the importance of connection, however transient it may be." National Reading Campaign
 
"With a measured pace that allows for character development, the story unfolds in a steady, satisfying way." Booklist
 
"Trevor is a sweet character, a little neurotic but ultimately good-natured, the introverted foil to many of the rambunctious boy characters that frequent middle-grade novels." National Post
 
"A poignant companion to the previous volume." School Library Journal

 The Spotted Dog Last Seen

"Although this book deals with the serious, devastating subject of the loss of a child, its tone is gentle and humorous. Jessica Scott Kerrin treats death and coping, not often discussed with children, in a realistic yet optimistic way. The book is also about the joy and escape of reading, as well as the release and therapy of writing. Mysterious on many levels, the novel's largest mysteries are about death itself and how to live." Canadian Children's Booknews, winter 2014

"During the course of the book, a cemetery goes from a frightening place to be avoided to a place of comfort for those who have lost someone. Kerrin shows that a cemetery is much more about the living than it is about the dead." Association of Gravestone Studies Quarterly, spring 2014

"The author tells this story simply yet leads readers to several climatic sections with lots of twists and turns. This realistic fiction is well-written and well-developed. Highly recommended." Library Media Connections, 2014

"Kerrin understands this age group and creates a sympathetic protagonist who will draw in readers...portraying authentic preteen feelings of self-doubt, self-consciousness, and even guilt. Going far beyond mystery book conventions, Spotted Dog is also a well-told story of growth and self-forgiveness." School Library Journal starred review, December 2013

"Derek tells his own story, allowing readers to empathize with his fears and struggles as he comes to grips with them. The supporting characters are pleasingly eccentric, and the action is fast-paced. The plot is convoluted and deals with some serious issues, but it all comes together in a manner that seems perfectly reasonable. Surprising twists and turns amid laughter and tears." Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2013

"It takes great skill to balance suspense, adequate pacing of plot, and necessary levity for a heavy plot. in The Spotted Dog Last Seen, Jessica Scott Kerrin manages to excel at this nuanced storytelling, all complemented by her excellent writing. The many threads of the intricate plot could easily come undone in the hands of a less-skilled writer, but Kerrin manages to knot the ending nicely. The reader is left wondering, until the last minute possible, what the solution to this puzzle will be. And the resolution is a wonderfully satisfying wrap-up to a fantastic quest." CM: Canadian Review of Materials, Vol. 10, No. 7, 2013.

The Lobster Chronicles: Spit Feathers

"Each book (in The Lobster Chronicles) may satisfactorily be read as a standalone but, by reading all three, layers of nuance and subtlety are revealed through the understanding of identical situations and dialogue as seen from different perspectives. Kerrin's strength is in her richly crafted characters whose personalities gently unfold, with the reader party to their inner thoughts and feelings. There is also a gentle, satisfying plot, a rich atmosphere of maritime fishing life and realistic dialogue complete with whimsical signature phrases." Canadian Children's Booknews, Fall, 2013, pg. 34

"Norris’ obnoxious, bullying behavior makes Ferguson just want to “spit feathers” in this conclusion to the Lobster Chronicles trilogy. Geared for emerging chapter book readers, like the preceding two works (Lower the Trap, 2012; A Narrow Escape, 2013), the same tale is presented again from yet another point of view. This concluding volume in an interesting concept series is strengthened by colorful characters." Kirkus Review, August 2013

The Lobster Chronicles: A Narrow Escape

"The second of a planned trilogy that explores the same event (capture of a giant lobster) from the viewpoints of three children in a Nova Scotian village, each in a separate book. This one focuses on Norris, a clever bully, the son of the town's largest employer, an arrogant man who is raising the boy in his own image. Norris realizes how his father's actions are souring the community; he rethinks his own course but it is far from clear that he's reformed - no doubt a believable result. Told from Norris' unpleasant point of view, it is all but impossible to warm to this character, even thought it's fairly clear that he walks in his father's shadow. A tough but realistic view of the inner workings of a rather nasty boy." Kirkus Review, February 2013

"Many readers will be sympathetic to the protagonist, a line-cutting, cheating kid who has a big heart hidden beneath his father's elitist teachings." School Library Journal, September 2013

The Lobster Chronicles: Lower the Trap

"How reassuring it is (for children) to find that not all heroes are larger-than-life figures but are just like them, complete with frailties and foibles as well as qualities of greatness. Graeme wins our sympathy as doubts assail him, and we become deeply involved in his dilemma as he confronts it with genuine emotion and developing awareness." Aileen Wortley, Canadian Children's Book News, summer 2012

"The ethical dilemma that Graeme faces will get readers thinking about how to treat other living things. It’s perfect for the reader who appreciates the story itself, and doesn’t need action on every page." Sweet on Books, July 2012

“This new series is perfect for young readers. They will love reading about Graeme and they will lover every part of the book. We, of course, can’t wait for the next one in thee series.” Social Cafe Magazine, June 2012

"Jessica creates fun characters. While Graeme is shown to be clever and likeable, the bully is shown to be smart as well. Judging by the first entry in the series, it looks like The Lobster Chronicles will be a fun trilogy." Portland Book Review, June 2012

"Kerrin uses a child’s natural curiosity for the strange and spectacular to explore an important aspect of Canadian life that will be unfamiliar to those who live in parts of the country where commercial fishing is not a way of life. Her approach to the series, in which each book will be told from the perspective of a different narrator, has the potential to be a powerful teaching tour." Quill and Quire, March 2012

"Kerrin, author of the Martin Bridge chapter-book series, aims for a slightly older audience in this first installment of a planned trilogy. Set in a fictional Nova Scotia fishing village, the books will examine, through the eyes of three separate boys, how their life changes with the capture of a gargantuan lobster. Kerrin conveys a believable plot with minimal text that’s driven by spot-on dialogue. A cast of colourful characters and a satisfying ending will leave readers wondering whose story is next." Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2012

"Lobster is Halifax’s quintessential food. Inspired by the iconic sea creature, Jessica proves that certain shellfish never go bad." The Coast Shopping Guide: 100 Great Things to Buy, 2012 Edition

"Kerrin has many interesting elements, including great description, an interesting setting, and a diverse set of characters." CM Magazine, May 2012.

"School social relations and an accessible plot combine with regional issues in this story, the first in a trilogy that examines the same event from three perspectives." Deirdre Baker, Toronto Star

"Judging by the first entry in the series, it looks like The Lobster Chronicle will be a fun trilogy." Portland Book Review,  June 2012

 Martin Bridge: Ready for Takeoff!

"Jessica Scott Kerrin’s Martin Bridge: Ready for Takeoff is a pitch-perfect chapter book that confronts its hero with three very real-world ethical dilemmas every elementary student will recognize." School Library Journal, June 2006

"Slice-of-life incidents, presented in three short stand alone chapters, ring with truth and familiarity because Martin is no cookie-cutter elementary school boy. A warm rich story for new chapter-book readers, who will be more than ready for Martin Bridge." Horn Book, June 1, 2005

"The everyday worlds of school, home and clubs offer Martin Bridge several opportunities for growth, and his responses are on target for a third grader. Kerrin relates the episodes in a straightforward way that incorporates rich language." School Library Journal, May 1, 2005

"In Martin Bridge: Ready for Takeoff!, independent readers found a sympathetic and completely likeable character whose elementary school trials and tribulations were relayed with warmth and humor. Martin’s second outing provides more of what made the first book work so beautifully. Martin Bridge is worth looking out for." Horn Book, December 1, 2005

"Young readers will readily identify with the likable, sympathetically drawn Martin and his crises of conscience when his well-intended actions go frustratingly awry." Quill and Quire, March 2005
 
"The everyday worlds of school, home, and clubs offer Martin Bridge several opportunities for growth, and his responses are on target for a third grader." School Library Journal, May 2005
 
"A pitch perfect chapter book that confronts its hero with three very real-world ethical dilemmas every elementary student will recognize." School Library Journal, June 2006
 
"A warm, rich story for new chapter-book readers." Horn Book, Starred Review, June 2005
 

 Martin Bridge: On the Lookout!

"Young readers will identify with Martin and will celebrate his successes while recognizing his shortcomings. The rich secondary characters, realistic charcoal illustrations and familiar situations are perfect for chapter book readers. May young readers have more from Martin." Kirkus Starred Review, August 15, 2005

"Honest dialogue brings to life three short stories about a boy who has a lot to learn about making and keeping friends." Scholastic Instructor, August 1, 2005

"Martin's second outing provides more of what made the first book work so beautifully. Martin Bridge is worth looking out for." Horn Book, Starred Review, December 2005
 
"[D]elivers the same type of fun as Martin Bridge: Ready for Takeoff ..." School Library Journal, Starred Review, November 2005
 

 Martin Bridge: In High Gear!

"... an accessible, realistic chapter-book series." Booklist, April 2008

 

"... a rewarding choice for young children beginning to read independently." CM Magazine, October 2008

 Martin Bridge: Sound the Alarm!

"Martin is a likable character who inadvertently gets himself into frustrating situations and uses his resiliency and resourcefulness to find practical solutions to his problems. Although he learns life lessons, the book remains light and funny. Part of an engaging series that adds a much-needed boy protagonist to early chapter-book sections, this title will be popular with newly independent readers." School Library Journal, 2009. 

 “Martin continues to be such a believable character that it's almost as if author Kerrin is channeling a real boy.” Horn Book, June 2007

 Martin Bridge: Out of Orbit!

"The fifth in the Martin Bridge series of chapter books for young readers, Out of Orbit presents a new set of adventures featuring an intrepid eight-year-old. Author Kerrin presses all the right buttons, giving this age/reading level a most likeable character, a boy whose foibles, bravado - mostly false - and basic good-heartedness are perhaps not too unlike the reader's own." Globe and Mail, August 11, 2007

Martin Bridge: The Sky's the Limit

"... an excellent bridge for the early reader moving to chapter books." CM Magazine, October 2008

 Martin Bridge: Onwards and Upwards!

"The real strength of these engaging stories is the absolute believability of Martin. In simple language, suitable for early readers, Kerrin gives us an honest portrait of an eight-year-old boy - whether he is grumpy or thoughtful, quietly creating his own sketches in his tree fort or playing Zip Rideout's Space Race Game." Canadian Children's Book Centre,  Spring 2009
 
 "Kerrin knows how eight-year-old boys think, speak and act." Winnipeg Free Press, March 2009
 

Martin Bridge: Blazing Ahead!

"Realistic, everyday situations, likable characters and simple stories written in rich language with solid dialogue and humor make this a series with endless variations, and readers will eagerly anticipate every new installment." Kirkus Reviews, July 26, 2006

“Martin is a real boy with parents who allow him to find his own way, a rarity in today’s early chapter books. Warm, expressive graphic and charcoal sketches add an extra dimension to both stories.” The Horn Book, October 2006

“Martin Bridge returns in another book that’s just as funny as the previous titles in the series … Kelly’s expressive, quirky drawings in graphite and charcoal with digital shading complement the text.” School Library Journal, November 2006