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

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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Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride.

THE PIGEON WILL RIDE THE ROLLER COASTER!

The Pigeon is on an emotional—and physical—roller coaster.

Since learning about the existence of roller coasters, he’s become giddy with excitement. The Pigeon prepares mentally: He’ll need a ticket and “exemplary patience” to wait in line. He envisions zooming up and down and careening through dizzying turns and loops. Then, he imagines his emotions afterward: exhilaration, post-ride blues, pride at having accomplished such a feat, and enthusiasm at the prospect of riding again. (He’ll also feel dizzy and nauseous.) All this before the Pigeon ever sets claw on an actual coaster. So…will he really try it? Are roller coasters fun? When the moment comes, everything seems to go according to plan: waiting in line, settling into the little car, THEN—off he goes! Though the ride itself isn’t quite what the Pigeon expected, it will delight readers. Wearing his feelings on his wing and speaking directly to the audience in first person, the Pigeon describes realistic thoughts and emotions about waiting and guessing about the unknown—common childhood experiences. No sentiment is misplaced; kids will relate to Pigeon’s eagerness and apprehension. The ending falls somewhat flat, but the whole humorous point is that an underwhelming adventure can still be thrilling enough to warrant repeating. Willems’ trademark droll illustrations will have readers giggling. The roller-coaster attendant is light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4549-4686-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A pleasant holiday spent with a perfectly charming character.

SPOOKY POOKIE

One of Boynton's signature characters celebrates Halloween.

It's Halloween time, and Pookie the pig is delighted. Mom helps the little porker pick out the perfect Halloween costume, a process that spans the entire board book. Using an abcb rhyme scheme, Boynton dresses Pookie in a series of cheerful costumes, including a dragon, a bunny, and even a caped superhero. Pookie eventually settles on the holiday classic, a ghost, by way of a bedsheet. Boynton sprinkles in amusing asides to her stanzas as Pookie offers costume commentary ("It's itchy"; "It's hot"; "I feel silly"). Little readers will enjoy the notion of transforming themselves with their own Halloween costumes while reading this book, and a few parents may get some ideas as well. Boynton's clean, sharp illustrations are as good as ever. This is Pookie's first holiday title, but readers will surely welcome more.

A pleasant holiday spent with a perfectly charming character. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-553-51233-5

Page Count: 18

Publisher: Robin Corey/Random

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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