Never didactic, these poems interweave music, programming, family drama, and middle school as interconnected parts of Emmy’s...

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EMMY IN THE KEY OF CODE

A 12-year-old whose dreams of musicianship are shattered discovers a passion for code.

Emmy’s lonely at her new San Francisco school. When her pianist dad got a dream job at the symphony, the family moved from Wisconsin—her mom’s opera career is portable—but Emmy’s miserable. Devastated she doesn’t have the talent to follow in her parents’ footsteps, she ends up in computer club instead of choir. And it’s there, learning Java, that Emmy makes friends with Abigail—and discovers that coding gives her a joy she’d believed came only from music. Free-verse chapters are conventional at first, drawing poetic structures from musical metaphors. But as Emmy learns Java, the language and structure of programming seep into her poems. Music and code interweave (one poem presents Emmy and Abigail’s pair-programming as a musical duet). Typeface changes have myriad effects: showcasing software and musical terms, mirroring the way formatting helps programmers understand software, and reflecting Emmy’s emotional state. As she becomes more comfortable in her own skin, she grows aware of the many traumas that affect her family, classmates, and teachers, and readers will cheer to see them work collectively—like an orchestra or like software developers—to create something beautiful. Characters’ races are unspecified, but on the cover Emmy presents white and Abigail (whose braids are referred to repeatedly) as black.

Never didactic, these poems interweave music, programming, family drama, and middle school as interconnected parts of Emmy’s life. (glossary) (Verse fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-358-04082-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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