Binny in Secret

288p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Jun. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442482784; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442482807.
Gr 4–6—Engaging and earnest 11-year-old Binny returns in a welcome sequel to Binny for Short (S. & S., 2013). It's the end of summer in Cornwall, and Binny's status as the bullied new girl at school is countered by her excitement about the possibility that a strange, exotic wild animal resides in the beautiful and untamed moor around their rented house. McKay alternates Binny's tale with the story of three kids living in the house in the 1910s and their interest in the collection and classification of natural specimens; the two eventually tie together. As always with McKay, the warmth and sweetness of Binny's family shine almost brighter than the excitable protagonist, and the side characters are irresistible. This title would work as a standalone, although the author's breezy writing, sheer number of characters, and habit of assuming that readers can remember who everyone is just by their names can make things confusing at times. But Binny is wonderful to spend time with, and putting down the book is like leaving a wonderfully comforting, very British setting filled with good friends.
VERDICT Hand this to lovers of Jeanne Birdsall's "Penderwicks" series (Knopf).

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