A real winner featuring comic adventures with a serious undercurrent.

JADE RIVERA SAVES THE PRESIDENT

When the president of the United States is kidnapped by suburban extremists, it’s up to two 12-year-old girls to foil their plans in this humorous middle-grade novel.

Jade Rivera and Katerina “KK” Kaminsky have been friends almost since they were born in the same Phoenix hospital. Both have immigrant parents; Jade’s are from China and Mexico, and KK’s from Russia. On a camping trip to nearby Superstition Mountain, a federally protected wilderness, the two girls hike alone toward some ruins; Jade notices an ancient saguaro cactus that’s been illegally cut down, revealing a mine entrance. Could it be the legendary Lost Dutchman’s Mine, said to contain a fortune in gold? As the girls investigate, they happen upon the bound and gagged U.S. president, who had been giving a speech nearby. He’s been taken prisoner by members of a group called the Suburbanites for Expansion, whose ransom demand is to “develop this wilderness into a suburban paradise.” Now prisoners themselves, the girls formulate a plan: Jade will pretend to be a Native American who speaks little English, and KK will pretend to translate for her. The bumbling yet still dangerous SFE members know nothing about local plants and animals, but the girls draw on a trove of facts and advice that their well-informed grandmothers gave them and put them to good use. In her debut, Robinson writes a hilariously comic adventure that incorporates solid information about Arizona’s real-life Superstition Mountain, its ecology and Native American history, and wilderness survival. Her young heroines are resourceful, spirited, and clever, and their attention to their grandmothers’ knowledge and wisdom pays off in several important ways, helping them find nonpoisonous food to eat and treat a reptile bite. A warm sense of family connection and an appreciation of immigrants’ diverse cultures underlie the story. The villains are cartoonishly exaggerated, but they also reference real issues, such as the fact that once-protected wilderness areas are increasingly threatened by developers. Debut illustrator David’s black-and-white drawings enliven the story, capturing the girls’ resolve and the villains’ absurdity. (A free study guide is available via email.)

A real winner featuring comic adventures with a serious undercurrent.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 176

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath...

GREGORY AND THE GRIMBOCKLE

In this debut middle-grade novel, a lonely boy finds friendship and learns about the magic of human connection.

Defined by the large mole on his lip, 10-year-old Gregory has grown distant from his family. He is friendless and withdrawn. Then one night a strange little creature emerges from Gregory’s mole. It is riding a (quite lovable) cockroach and can change size. This is the Grimbockle. The Grimbockle—one of many Bockles, who, like Palmer Cox’s Brownies, live at the peripheries of human awareness—tends to the exoodles that bind people together. Exoodles are long, transparent, noodlelike threads and are usually invisible. Once Gregory has his eyeballs painted with Carrot Juicy, though, he can see them. He joins the Grimbockle and the roach, traveling the exoodles as if on a high-speed roller coaster. Exoodles wither and die when people don’t look after their relationships. The Grimbockle is trying to repair a particularly sickly exoodle that links a boy to his mother. Can Gregory help—and can he mend the exoodles in his own life? Schubert follows delightedly in the footsteps of Roald Dahl, opening her unfortunate young protagonist’s eyes to a previously unseen world both weird and wondrous (yet for all its outlandish magic, oddly logical). The scenario is one of riotous imagination, while the Grimbockle himself—brought sweetly to life in black-and-white illustrations by Kraft—is a sprightly and good-natured little person, full of the type of singsong infelicities found in Dahl’s beloved nonhuman characters: “Is you ever seeing glimpses of squiggles in the corners of your twinklers but then they is disappearing in a snippety blink?” “ ‘Exoodles!’ shouted the Grimbockle in triumph. ‘Sometimes, hoo-mans is getting so twisty and wound up in extra exoodles that they is feeling gloomy blue and heavy all day long.’ ” The story is perhaps too much of a parable to fully match Dahl’s template; the adventure is safer and the threats less dark. Nonetheless, readers should fall willingly and with thrilled abandon into the fizzy, fanciful world of Gregory and his Grimbockle friend.

A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath surface appearances.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9911109-3-3

Page Count: 153

Publisher: New Wrinkle Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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