THE CALDER GAME

Balliett’s third mystery falls short of Chasing Vermeer’s brilliance, and the triangular friendship among Calder, Petra and Tommy, skillfully developed in The Wright 3, receives bumpier treatment here (2004; 2006). The three seventh graders experience a transformative field trip to view Alexander Calder’s massive, colorful mobiles. The scene shifts radically when Calder’s father takes his son along on a business trip to England. Calder goes missing and stays thus for nearly half the novel. Improbably, Petra, Tommy and their elderly friend Mrs. Sharp fly to England to assist. Intricate plotting involves Blenheim Palace’s maze, an anonymously (and roundly disliked) donated Calder sculpture stolen from Woodstock’s village square, a mysterious American named Art Wish, the influence of the elusive British guerilla artist Banksy, a gad-about cat and much more. Tommy and Petra’s pairing kindles mutual admiration but oddly hapless explorations—Calder, trapped in a Palace waterfall’s hidden crevasse, ends up rescued by cops. While a fourth adventure’s intimated, problematic construction and too many tidy dei ex machinis (including their nasty teacher’s turning terrific) mar this one. (author’s notes) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-439-85207-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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POWERLESS

From the Supers of Noble's Green series , Vol. 1

Resembling a Golden Age comic without the pictures, this tale pits a group of small-town children with superpowers—call them “preteen titans”—against a shadowy menace that robs them of those powers on their 13th birthdays. Coming to town with his family to care for his dying grandma, Daniel quickly spots his neighbor Mollie and her friends performing incredible feats. Soon he’s in their confidence, as they demonstrate combinations of super-speed, super-strength, enhanced senses and the ability to turn invisible. All of them can also hear the clock ticking, however. Gifted not with superpowers but a sharp mind and a fondness for Sherlock Holmes stories, Daniel sets out to discover how and why his new friends, like generations of their predecessors, are being robbed of their abilities. Where those abilities come from never enters in, but the obligatory wily supervillain does, leading to a titanic climactic battle. Cody wears his influences on his sleeve, but has some fun with them (one lad’s “power” is a super-stench) and crafts a tribute that, unlike M.T. Anderson’s Whales On Stilts (2005), is more admiring than silly. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-375-85595-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2009

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Readers will need to strap on their helmets and prepare for a wild ride.

WILD RIVER

Disaster overtakes a group of sixth graders on a leadership-building white-water rafting trip.

Deep in the Montana wilderness, a dam breaks, and the resultant rush sweeps away both counselors, the rafts, and nearly all the supplies, leaving five disparate preteens stranded in the wilderness far from where they were expected to be. Narrator Daniel is a mild White kid who’s resourceful and good at keeping the peace but given to worrying over his mentally ill father. Deke, also White, is a determined bully, unwilling to work with and relentlessly taunting the others, especially Mia, a Latina, who is a natural leader with a plan. Tony, another White boy, is something of a friendly follower and, unfortunately, attaches himself to Deke while Imani, a reserved African American girl, initially keeps her distance. After the disaster, Deke steals the backpack with the remaining food and runs off with Tony, and the other three resolve to do whatever it takes to get it back, eventually having to confront the dangerous bully. The characters come from a variety of backgrounds but are fairly broadly drawn; still, their breathlessly perilous situation keeps the tale moving briskly forward, with one threatening situation after another believably confronting them. As he did with Wildfire (2019), Newbery Honoree Philbrick has crafted another action tale for young readers that’s impossible to put down.

Readers will need to strap on their helmets and prepare for a wild ride. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-64727-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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