Happily, Kerley’s execution matches her ambition, resulting in a highly readable story that pairs a rapid-fire plot with a...

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FOLLOWING BAXTER

There is a lot going on in this mystery/sci-fi/coming-of-age adventure about a girl and the charismatic dog next door.

When Professor Reese moves in with her giant, gray, shaggy dog, Baxter, next door to 11-year-old Jordie Marie Wallace, Jordie’s life changes in a number of ways: she’s always wanted a dog; she awakens to the lure of scientific discovery; and she experiences a number of “opportunities to be more dependable.” Dense plotlines weave together many intertwining threads, but it all fits together. A subplot about Jordie’s participation in a “Study Buddies” project and one about her circle of friends’ plan to open a hairdresser/vet/day care both turn out to be key to the development of her self-awareness. This is all back story to the main storyline: Jordie volunteers to walk Baxter while Professor Reese works on her research into the possibility of teleportation. When Professor Reese disappears, Jordie, her brother, and “magical” Baxter work together to solve the case. Clues to Jordie’s strengths and challenges are not explicitly articulated but are aptly shown through other characters’ reactions. Her relationships with friends and family are realistic, which juxtaposes cleverly with the speculative aspect of the plot. The book subscribes to the white default, with racial diversity hinted at in supporting characters’ names.

Happily, Kerley’s execution matches her ambition, resulting in a highly readable story that pairs a rapid-fire plot with a likable protagonist. (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-249978-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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A quirky sci-fi adventure with a surprising layer of political irony.

WE'RE NOT FROM HERE

Who knew the survival of the human race would depend on fitting in at school?

With Earth destroyed, humans have successfully petitioned Planet Choom to take them in as refugees. Narrator Lan Mifune and their family (Lan is never gendered in the text) travel there, arriving to a surprise. During the 20-year journey in bio-suspension asleep, Choom’s government has changed, along with their acceptance of humans, and they are asked to leave immediately. With no other alternative, Lan’s mom, Amora Persaud, who’s on the ship’s Governing Council, is able to negotiate a trial run, in which the Mifune family will prove humans can peacefully assimilate. Being the new kid at school is tough anywhere, but on Choom, Lan must navigate the cultures of the werewolflike Kriks; Ororos, who resemble giant marshmallows; and the Zhuri, who resemble giant mosquitoes and express emotions by secreting specific scents. Things get complicated when the Zhuri government executes a smear campaign against humans even as some privately believe humans can be peaceful if given the chance. It’s up to Lan and their family to prove humans can contribute to society. Rodkey deftly mirrors recent debates about refugees and immigrants, twisting them into a black comedy–sci-fi mashup. Racial and ethnic diversity is purposely shown solely through names, hinting via surname that Lan’s family shares mixed Japanese and Indian heritage. The abrupt resolution might leave some in disbelief, but that’s a small price to pay.

A quirky sci-fi adventure with a surprising layer of political irony. (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7304-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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