An enjoyable, educational trip through one of nature’s most complicated machines.



A young cell learns how to do an unusual job in this debut children’s novel.

Simon Spleen is a single cell in the body of a young man named Gerald. Like all cells, he’s required to go to the Gerald School of Cellular Apprenticeship to learn how to support and protect his person’s various bodily functions. Although he’s personally destined to help the spleen clean Gerald’s blood, he also has to learn all about the other parts of the body. Thanks to the school’s hands-on teaching philosophy, he sees the digestive system, the immune system, and others up-close while making friends with the energetic Jeff Heart, smart Lizy Thyroid, and cool Ryan Lung. He also has to deal with some bullies who look down on smaller cells, but this only makes him happier when he discovers his own unique talent for taming red blood cells. (His special skills also sometimes get him in trouble, though.) All the cells are forced to put their abilities to the test early when the evil germ Meningitis invades Gerald and tries to destroy the whole body. This short tale for younger readers also contains several illustrations by the author’s 6-year-old daughter, Sophie. Overall, the book has a fun, energetic style that many children will enjoy, and most of its anatomy lessons are effortlessly incorporated into the story. Along with biology, Simon and company also learn lessons about friendship, teamwork, and how to recover from errors. The setting also leads to goofy jokes, such as “You slept like a kidney stone,” but it doesn’t rely on them to the point of annoyance. In broad strokes, the plot uses elements that are reminiscent of those in other children’s books, particularly the Harry Potter series, but placing them in a new setting may be enough to keep younger readers from finding the story predictable. Even older readers may finish the book with a better understanding of how the body works.

An enjoyable, educational trip through one of nature’s most complicated machines.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5228-9623-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula.


In honor of its 25th anniversary, a Disney Halloween horror/comedy film gets a sequel to go with its original novelization.

Three Salem witches hanged in 1693 for stealing a child’s life force are revived in 1993 when 16-year-old new kid Max completes a spell by lighting a magical candle (which has to be kindled by a virgin to work). Max and dazzling, popular classmate Allison have to keep said witches at bay until dawn to save all of the local children from a similar fate. Fast-forward to 2018: Poppy, daughter of Max and Allison, inadvertently works a spell that sends her parents and an aunt to hell in exchange for the gleeful witches. With help from her best friend, Travis, and classmate Isabella, on whom she has a major crush, Poppy has only hours to keep the weird sisters from working more evil. The witches, each daffier than the last, supply most of the comedy as well as plenty of menace but end up back in the infernal regions. There’s also a talking cat, a talking dog, a gaggle of costumed heroines, and an oblique reference to a certain beloved Halloween movie. Traditional Disney wholesomeness is spiced, not soured, by occasional innuendo and a big twist in the sequel. Poppy and her family are white, while Travis and Isabella are both African-American.

A bit of envelope-pushing freshens up the formula. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02003-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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