A fast-paced, action-packed, and undeniably fun middle-grade tale.

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Keelic and the Space Pirates

THE KEELIC TRAVERS CHRONICLES BOOK 1

The first book in Edlund’s (A Woman Warrior Born, 2013) middle-grade sci-fi series chronicles the adventures of an 11-year-old boy whose family has just relocated to a new planet.

Keelic Travers dreams of being a pirate—commanding his own ship and traveling anywhere he wants—but his current existence has none of that glorious freedom. As the new kid in school, students (and teachers) relentlessly bully him, and at home, his overprotective parents make it difficult for him to have any fun. But two events irrevocably change his life: he befriends a little alien creature named Thotti that communicates telepathically by using images and emotions, and he discovers an abandoned base while exploring the remote areas surrounding his home. Almost 300 years have passed since the Galactic War ended, but Keelic finds that Alpha Base, a secret command center that trained the crews of “super-ships” for the Terra Corps, is still operational and hidden in a massive sinkhole. Its old simulator, in particular, becomes a sanctuary for the boy—a place where he can forget about his miserable life and study military history and strategies with his sidekick, Thotti. This book is tonally reminiscent of Robert A. Heinlein’s juvenile novels, such as Space Cadet (1948) and Red Planet (1949). However, there are a few minor flaws that impact the story’s overall effectiveness: the era’s back story could’ve been more clearly explained, and the overall worldbuilding and character development are lacking. That said, the storyline is strongly constructed, the narrative focused, and the pacing brisk. The character of Keelic is endearing, and his struggles are easy to identify with (feeling alone, being bullied, having a first crush). But, as in the aforementioned Heinlein classics, it’s a sense of wonder that powers this story, which is magnified by the fact that the events are seen through the eyes of a boy. Some better description could’ve made this novel an extraordinary reading experience, but as it is, it’s still very good.

A fast-paced, action-packed, and undeniably fun middle-grade tale.

Pub Date: March 6, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 227

Publisher: Landstrider Press

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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DIARY OF A WIMPY KID

A NOVEL IN CARTOONS

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 1

First volume of a planned three, this edited version of an ongoing online serial records a middle-school everykid’s triumphs and (more often) tribulations through the course of a school year. Largely through his own fault, mishaps seem to plague Greg at every turn, from the minor freak-outs of finding himself permanently seated in class between two pierced stoners and then being saddled with his mom for a substitute teacher, to being forced to wrestle in gym with a weird classmate who has invited him to view his “secret freckle.” Presented in a mix of legible “hand-lettered” text and lots of simple cartoon illustrations with the punch lines often in dialogue balloons, Greg’s escapades, unwavering self-interest and sardonic commentary are a hoot and a half—certain to elicit both gales of giggles and winces of sympathy (not to mention recognition) from young readers. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8109-9313-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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