A bit of science in a very minor key. (Science fiction/iPad app. 8-12)

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A PALE BLUE DOT

A rather lifeless search for life in the great beyond.

In a story inspired by the discovery of pulsars by Jocelyn Burnell, who was doing grunge work at an observatory for Cambridge University in 1967 when she identified the first one, Bova presents 15-year-old Tom Daniels, spending the summer with his father and searching the heavens for the next “pale blue dot”—an Earthmate. Tom is also doing grunge work, and so for his birthday, he decides to steal a late-night visit to the control center to see what he might see. The language of the text can be a bit too striving—when Tom lights up the big telescope, he sees “Stars and more stars, big groady clouds of glowing gas hanging out there in deep space. Better than cool. Radical”—and the accompanying electronic music may pall. The only active interaction with the story is via an invitation to join a Twitter discussion. There is, however, one very tender and meaningful story element: Tom’s father asks if he would like to author a paper with him about a planet that Tom has seen during his nighttime raid on the control center. He also explains to Tom the truth that science rarely proceeds by great discoveries but by the gradual accrual of knowledge, like a cathedral being built a brick at a time.

A bit of science in a very minor key. (Science fiction/iPad app. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 26, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Digital Book Production

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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DIARY OF A WIMPY KID

A NOVEL IN CARTOONS

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 1

First volume of a planned three, this edited version of an ongoing online serial records a middle-school everykid’s triumphs and (more often) tribulations through the course of a school year. Largely through his own fault, mishaps seem to plague Greg at every turn, from the minor freak-outs of finding himself permanently seated in class between two pierced stoners and then being saddled with his mom for a substitute teacher, to being forced to wrestle in gym with a weird classmate who has invited him to view his “secret freckle.” Presented in a mix of legible “hand-lettered” text and lots of simple cartoon illustrations with the punch lines often in dialogue balloons, Greg’s escapades, unwavering self-interest and sardonic commentary are a hoot and a half—certain to elicit both gales of giggles and winces of sympathy (not to mention recognition) from young readers. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8109-9313-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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