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

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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A few missed notes don’t prevent this novel from delivering a satisfying story even if the tune is familiar.

THE MYSTWICK SCHOOL OF MUSICRAFT

A toe-tapping fantasy novel mixes music and mystery.

Aficionados of middle-grade fantasy may find the premise recognizable: A parentless 12-year-old with unusual magical gifts is summoned to attend an elite boarding school in order to hone their craft. What makes this, YA author Khoury’s middle-grade debut, stand out is the focus on a special type of magic involving spells cast by playing musical instruments. After narrowly being accepted into Mystwick to study Musicraft with the most talented musicians in the world, Amelia Jones must prove that she has what it takes to perform musical spells and secure her spot at the school—or risk expulsion. Amelia struggles with difficult classes, mountains of homework, plus a roommate who hates her, and she quickly learns that someone—or something—seems to have it out for her. Staying at Mystwick will be more difficult than she ever imagined. Amelia’s only hope is the music she knows she is capable of creating, but she must find the courage and confidence to play it. Frenna’s lightly cartoony grayscale illustrations bring some of the pivotal scenes to life. Sparse physical descriptions paired with student names from a variety of cultures seem like a missed opportunity to describe ethnic and racial diversity explicitly; Amelia is white. Victoria, a guitarist who uses a wheelchair, is a featured secondary character.

A few missed notes don’t prevent this novel from delivering a satisfying story even if the tune is familiar. (Fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-62563-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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Narrow squeaks aplenty combine with bursts of lyrical prose for a satisfying adventure

THE GOOD THIEVES

A Prohibition-era child enlists a gifted pickpocket and a pair of budding circus performers in a clever ruse to save her ancestral home from being stolen by developers.

Rundell sets her iron-jawed protagonist on a seemingly impossible quest: to break into the ramshackle Hudson River castle from which her grieving grandfather has been abruptly evicted by unscrupulous con man Victor Sorrotore and recover a fabulously valuable hidden emerald. Laying out an elaborate scheme in a notebook that itself turns out to be an integral part of the ensuing caper, Vita, only slowed by a bout with polio years before, enlists a team of helpers. Silk, a light-fingered orphan, aspiring aerialist Samuel Kawadza, and Arkady, a Russian lad with a remarkable affinity for and with animals, all join her in a series of expeditions, mostly nocturnal, through and under Manhattan. The city never comes to life the way the human characters do (Vita, for instance, “had six kinds of smile, and five of them were real”) but often does have a tangible presence, and notwithstanding Vita’s encounter with a (rather anachronistically styled) “Latina” librarian, period attitudes toward race and class are convincingly drawn. Vita, Silk, and Arkady all present white; Samuel, a Shona immigrant from Southern Rhodesia, is the only primary character of color. Santoso’s vignettes of, mostly, animals and small items add occasional visual grace notes.

Narrow squeaks aplenty combine with bursts of lyrical prose for a satisfying adventure . (Historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1948-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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