Reviews for Stranger Next Door


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 February 2002
Gr. 4-6. In the tradition of adult mystery writers Rita Mae Brown and Lillian Jackson Braun, Kehret introduces a new sleuth (and coauthor), observant Pete the Cat, a hefty, self-assured feline who doesn't shy away from danger or his food dish. Pete's owner, Alex, is having a rough time: his family recently moved into a new housing development where there aren't any kids his age; he misses his old neighborhood and friends; and he's being bullied by boys who resent the loss of their favorite dirt bike trails in the development. When 12-year-old Rocky and his family move in next door, Alex is thrilled, though Rocky's evasiveness and aloof behavior are puzzling. Is he hiding something? Could he be responsible for the rash of vandalism and arson in the development? Pete, of course, discovers who is behind the crimes. The problem then becomes one of making his humans understand. Kehret packs a lot of action and tension in this easy-to-handle mystery, leavening it nicely with Pete's entertaining swaggering and sleuthing. ((Reviewed February 1, 2002)) Copyright 2002 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2002 Fall
Twelve-year-old Alex is glad when a boy his age moves in next door, but Rocky rejects AlexÆs friendship. A series of mysterious fires in their housing development makes Alex wonder if Rocky is somehow involved. Kehret does a good job of maintaining suspense and establishing several possible culprits. In an amusing gimmick, AlexÆs cat, Pete, contributes his own (appropriately catty) comments to the narrative. Copyright 2002 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2002 March #2
Fans of Kehret (Saving Lily, 2001, etc.)-and fans of cats-will appreciate this suspenseful novel about two boys who discover friendship after facing peril. This is thanks in no small part to the author's resourceful feline, Pete the Cat, who "cowrote" the novel (his contributions to Kehret's narrative are explained in the amusing prologue and are italicized throughout). Said feline also wrote a juicy role for himself within the storyline so that he figures in the solution to the mystery. Happily for readers, while Pete's "speech" sounds like plain old meow to his unknowing owners, his writing is perfectly comprehensible as English. Twelve-year-old Alex Kendrill has moved to a new housing development in Seattle with his parents, six-year-old brother, and pet cat. Friendless at school and picked on by some bullies, Alex's spirits pick up when he learns a new family is moving in next door. Believing he might make a new friend at last, Alex's hopes are dashed when the boy, Rocky Morris, in fact shuns contact and is evasive about himself and his past. Kehret keeps her story exciting and dangerous. There are vandals afoot, not to mention a mysterious arsonist who attempts to murder Alex in a terrifying episode in which Alex is trapped in a house that the arsonist has set ablaze. Add to this Rocky's constant fear that his family's closely guarded secret will be found out: they are in the Witness Protection Program because Rocky's mom's testimony before Congress will bring down a major drug kingpin. All these ingredients add up to a satisfying, fast-paced read. Readers will be caught up in the action even as they are amused by Pete's astute observations and adroit detective work. (Fiction. 10-12) Copyright Kirkus 2002 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved

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School Library Journal Reviews 2002 March
Gr 4-8-Alex is less than thrilled when his family moves into a new housing development. The 12-year-old has left his old school and friends behind, and his new classmates blame him because the new houses were built over their old dirt-bike paths. He becomes hopeful when a family with a son his age moves in next door. However, sullen Rocky is not responsive to Alex's attempts at friendship. Things get worse when street signs begin disappearing and fires start in the neighborhood, one destroying Rocky's house. Alex is sure that the boy is hiding something. Part of the story is told from the point of view of Alex's cat Pete, who can understand the speech of humans, even if they can only interpret his meows as demands for food in return. The feline helps to solve the mystery and to save Alex's life. Characterization is solid, though characters react a little too stoically to traumatic revelations and events. The story moves swiftly and holds interest. However, because of the fast pace, little attention is given to explaining the motive behind the arson, which involves insurance fraud, a concept that will be unfamiliar to most children. A quick, exciting read to entice reluctant readers.-Heather Dieffenbach, Lexington Public Library, KY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2002 February
This mystery begins with two stories, first that of Alex and his family, who have moved into a new, upscale housing development, and second, of Clifford, whose parents suddenly uproot him from everything he knows and move cross-country, next door to Alex. Alex, his younger brother, parents, and Pete the Cat welcome the new neighbors, but the boys find Rocky-formerly Clifford-standoffish. As Alex is bullied at school about becoming too upper class, simple acts of vandalism begin in the new neighborhood and Alex suspects the bullies or Rocky. When the new neighbors' house catches on fire, things begin to take on a serious note. Meanwhile, Clifford/Rocky has learned that his mother is in the witness protection program and must testify against his biological father, a drug trafficker. Alex discovers that the person responsible for the fires in the area is the developer, and his discovery leads to the developer attempting to killhim. Through all of this fast-moving adventure, Rocky ends up saving Alex's life-with Pete's help-and they become friends. The gimmick to this book is the use of the cat, Pete, to tell part of the story. Printed in italic, his observations note things that humans do not. Pete has an integral part in the plot and is injured while trying to rescue Alex from another fire in a vacant house. This mystery involving secret identities, school bullies, arson, and monetary gain holds special appeal for young teens and reluctant readers.-Patricia Morrow. 3Q 4P M Copyright 2002 Voya Reviews

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