Further misadventures of an endearing sleuth with his heart on his sleeve.

In his latest outing, young Cymbeline Igloo helps solve two mysteries involving immigrants in his English community and has a lifelong dream fulfilled.

Firstly, who is playing mean pranks on Mrs. Martin, who has been his favorite teacher since her arrival from Botswana—and why? Secondly, what has made Nanai, a Chinese Vietnamese refugee and the grandma of Cymbeline’s bestie, Veronique Chang, suddenly stop eating? And thirdly, why hasn’t Jacky Chapman, revered star footballer for Charlton, answered Cym’s written request for a ride in his helicopter? In getting to the answers, Baron plunges his curious and emotionally intense narrator, who presents White, into a whirl of daily experiences comical and otherwise—ranging from Cym’s amazing day in class with a pink-haired, tattooed science teacher and his mum’s ill-starred attempt to make a vegetarian dinner for her boyfriend to a tearful funeral (for a pet) and startling revelations at a tender family reunion. By the end, the mysteries are solved and resolved satisfactorily. Meanwhile, Cym gets his helicopter ride, writes a rubbish book report on War and Peace (given in full) but proves a dab hand at Scrabble, and expresses gratitude for living in a culturally diverse country; his warm relations with Veronique’s family include sobering glimpses of Nanai’s tragic and harrowing past. Select dramatic moments are marked typographically and by Davies’ vignettes of significant items.

Further misadventures of an endearing sleuth with his heart on his sleeve. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-00-849963-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper360

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022


Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020


A pitch-perfect middle-grade novel that insightfully explores timely topics with authenticity and warmth.

A nuanced novel about a neurodiverse preteen’s political and social awakening by a Pura Belpré Honor–winning author.

Sixth grader Emilia Rosa Torres sometimes has a hard time keeping up with schoolwork and concentrating on one thing at a time, but her software-developer mother and superinvolved abuelita help her keep on task. Days before her father’s return to their Atlanta suburb from his most recent deployment, her mother goes on a business trip, leaving the middle schooler to juggle his mood swings, her friend troubles, and her looming assignments all on her own. When a social studies project opens her eyes to injustices past and present, Emilia begins to find her voice and use it to make an impact on her community. Writing with sensitivity and respectful complexity, Cartaya tackles weighty issues, such as immigration, PTSD, and microaggressions, through the lens of a budding tinkerer and activist who has ADHD. The members of this Cuban American family don’t all practice the same religion, with Emilia’s Catholic grandmother faithfully attending Mass multiple times a week and the protagonist’s mother celebrating her culture’s Yoruba roots with Santería. Conversations on race and gender crop up through the narrative as Emilia’s grandmother likes to emphasize her family’s European heritage—Emilia can pass as white, with her fair complexion, light eyes and auburn hair. All of these larger issues are effortlessly woven in with skill and humor, as is the Spanish her family easily mixes with English.

A pitch-perfect middle-grade novel that insightfully explores timely topics with authenticity and warmth. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-451-47972-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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