Best for those interested in pet birds.

WORLD'S WORST PARROT

After Ava inherits a parrot from a barely remembered great-uncle, her efforts to maintain an idealized image seem to crumble.

Ava has successfully used social media to depict herself as leading a perfect life, hiding that her father has recently abandoned their family, that her older brother, Gregg, is an aggravating tease, and that her mother is both depressed and angry. Still, by posting attractive selfies and a running monologue of her supposed beautiful life, Ava has managed to acquire several hundred followers. The parrot, Mervin, is a challenge—noisy, destructive, and demanding lots of attention. As soon as Gregg posts a photo of the parrot at his worst, Ava’s two BFFs, Kim and Kim, promptly (and seemingly inexplicably) dump her, apparently put off by Mervin’s messiness. Only later, as Ava begins to bond with another classmate, does it become clear that the Kims have become more interested in hunky Gregg than in Ava (making their rejection of her even less understandable). Characters (default white) are predictable and only superficially depicted, and the ups and downs of Ava’s social media and school images are equally lacking in nuance. Only the lively parrot and Ava’s growing understanding of and affection for him rise above average.

Best for those interested in pet birds. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2375-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle. (Science fiction. 9-12)

HOUSE OF ROBOTS

From the House of Robots series , Vol. 1

Sammy is less than thrilled when his genius inventor mother creates a robot brother for him.

Sammy Hayes-Rodriguez's life has always been filled with robots. His mother has invented automatons that clean the floors, mow the lawn, give traffic reports and even plant fantastic gardens. Sammy's school has until now been a robot-free zone, but when Mom invents E (for Egghead, or maybe Einstein Jr.—his parents can’t decide) and insists Sammy take the new robot to school, things get out of hand. Chronicling the ups and downs of an entire school year with a robot brother, the authors put cute sci-fi twists on first-time crushes, school bullies and best-friend troubles. There's nothing here that breaks new ground or illuminates the psyche of young boys in any new or interesting ways, but there are plenty of amusing jokes. Young readers with an interest in science will certainly be engaged. A subplot featuring Sammy's younger sister, a brilliant girl who is homebound by severe combined immunodeficiency disorder, is as by-the-numbers as the rest of the book, but it doesn't tie in to the robot plot until the very end. It's hard to tell if this development is a clumsy climax or an awkward setup for a sequel. Either way, it doesn't work well with everything that came beforehand.

A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle.  (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-40591-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2015

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Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world.

THEY THREW US AWAY

From the Teddies Saga series , Vol. 1

The journey to find a child becomes an existential quest for an abandoned teddy bear.

Buddy is not just any stuffed bear, but a blue Furrington Teddy with a Real Silk Heart. So why did he wake up in a landfill with other Furringtons of varying hues? A more pressing matter, however, is escaping Trashland and its murderous gulls and bulldozers. Yearning to connect with a child and achieve a state of peaceful Forever Sleep, Buddy and his new friends of differing temperaments and gifts set out on a harrowing journey through the city to find children who will want them. As they encounter other Furringtons in disarray, this opener in The Teddies Saga series becomes a mystery about why these teddies are being harmed in the first place. While the visceral narrative follows the teddy troupe’s adventurous challenges and survival, its focus is on Buddy’s inner struggles as he ponders identity, leadership, and other existential dilemmas. Kraus doesn’t shy away from anger, fear, death, and other dark subjects; instead they become opportunities for growth in difficult environments. Cai’s intense, slightly nightmarish grayscale illustrations add immeasurably to the text. Reminiscent of Watership Down in theme and structure, the novel’s intermittent teddy creation stories also become parables of a moral code and extend the epic story arc. A cliffhanger ending sets the scene for the next installment.

Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22440-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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