An SF–infused tale that proves both entertaining and educational.

PEOPLE OF THE SUN

THE EYE OF RA: BOOK 3

From the The Eye of Ra series

Time-traveling siblings race to save the world’s future by restoring historical events in this third installment of a middle-grade fantasy series.

After discovering the eye of Ra, Sarah and her younger brother, John, traveled through time and space to ancient lands. They embarked on adventures and saved the planet, so now they can be typical kids in California—if their mom scores a teaching gig there. But apparently there’s more for the siblings to do. Two aging, time-traveling strangers show up and ask for their help. In 2049, a solar flare interrupts a demonstration of a time-slowing device. This catastrophic event not only wipes out the future beyond 2049, but also transports people at the demonstration into the past. Toci, a woman in early-16th-century Mexico, plans to lead the Aztecs in defeating Cortés before he slaughters them. Sadly, this tragedy must occur, as it’s a consequential part of history’s “story lines.” Sarah and John travel back in time to stop Toci, but this smart and resourceful Aztec scholar has already anticipated innovative adversaries and is determined to take down Cortés. Gartner wisely simplifies his briskly paced tale, which zeroes in on a single “mission.” Along with lessening potential time-traveling complications, the move paves the way for additional quests in future volumes. This book is primed for younger readers, highlighting real-life customs and places as well as the Aztecs’ Nahuatl language (with helpful phonetic spellings trailing certain words). The author, meanwhile, paints a sublime portrait of old Mexico and its people: “Canoes drifted on canals like the pictures he’d seen of Venice in Italy….Farther out into the lake, men cast nets and brought up flopping silver fish, their scales sparkling in the sun.” As in earlier installments, the author includes a recipe—xocolatl, a spicy, nonsweet hot chocolate Toci deems an “acquired taste.”

An SF–infused tale that proves both entertaining and educational.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-73415-527-3

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Crescent Vista Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2021

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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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A story of fierce friendship, bravery, loyalty, and finding—or making—a place to belong.

THE MIDNIGHT CHILDREN

Ravani Foster and the whole town of Slaughterville are changed by the arrival of seven unusual children.

Skinny, lonely Ravani is the only one who sees the children arrive and move into the house across the street, and he soon finds a comrade in tough, golden-haired Virginia. Despite the local newspaper owner’s assertion that Slaughterville is not the kind of town where exciting things happen, Ravani’s life changes dramatically as Virginia and her chosen family of parentless kids calling themselves the Ragabonds let him in on their secret: They are on the run. When vicious bully Donnie learns that the Ragabonds are being pursued, he blackmails Ravani, who is desperate to protect them and equally desperate for Virginia, his first friend, to stay. She introduces him to the quietly revolutionary idea that things don’t have to be the way they’ve always been. The omniscient narrative voice is a strong presence throughout, drawing readers’ attention to themes including choices that make a difference, connections between people (“Sometimes, when two souls find each other in the darkness, the darkness goes away”), deciding who you want to be and not letting others define you, and the importance of home and family. Brief chapters from the perspective of the man hunting the Ragabonds ratchet up the suspense, culminating in an exciting sequence of events followed by a heartwarming ending. All main characters are coded White.

A story of fierce friendship, bravery, loyalty, and finding—or making—a place to belong. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-19672-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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