Light as air, sneakily earnest, chock-full of worthy silliness: “Be like cheese (or bacon) and make everything you touch...

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KID PRESIDENT'S GUIDE TO BEING AWESOME

A buoyant young YouTube celebrity’s experiences and outlook spawn 240 pages of uplift.

It’s all hung on a 100-point (!) program for awesomeness that begins with “Put down your phone” and ends with “Start writing on a page and then lose track of…” (and is helpfully repeated at the end of the book as a checklist). This patchwork assemblage of slogans, photos, recipes, instructions, side projects, short interviews with dozens of activists, and banter with co-author/producer/brother-in-law Montague boogies along as energetically as its (now) 11-year-old frontman. The irrepressible Novak was propelled to viral fame by the 2012 video “Pep Talk” (included in transcription, with new cartoon illustrations). He lights up his subsequent encounters with fellow celebrities from President Barack Obama and Beyoncé to Justin Timberlake and Timberlake’s grandma—as well as such bright if less-visible luminaries as the founders of a beauty pageant for special needs participants and “Make a Stand,” a lemonade-based anti–child-slavery initiative. Blending generalities with specific actions, the life advice runs to upbeat witticisms like “Don’t sweat the small stuff. Life is short and deodorant is expensive”; “Don’t be in a party. Be a party”; “High five your dentist”; and “Practice the art of the unexpected burrito.” It’s organizationally overwhelming, with a design aesthetic that seems to spurn consistency across more than four pages.

Light as air, sneakily earnest, chock-full of worthy silliness: “Be like cheese (or bacon) and make everything you touch better.” (Self-help. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-235868-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2015

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Maybe it’s “awesome” to be average.

YOU ARE AWESOME

Champion table tennis player Syed begins this encouragement book by chronicling his own story of how he grew up believing he was average until he began to master the sport.

The goal of this book is to help kids realize that they needn’t necessarily be born with a certain gift or talent—that maybe success is a combination of hard work, the right mentors, and a strong support system. In the chapter “What’s Holding Me Back?” Syed offers a variety of ways a young person can begin to reflect on who they really are and define what their true passion may be. The following chapters stress the importance of practice, coping with pressure, and honoring mistakes as human rather than failure. Throughout the book, Syed highlights those he terms “Famous Failures,” including Steve Jobs, Jay-Z, and Jennifer Lawrence, while also providing a spotlight for those who mastered their talent by perseverance, such as Serena Williams, the Brontë sisters, and David Beckham. Though this self-help book has good intentions, however, it is a little heavy-handed on the perpetuation of an achievement-oriented life. Perhaps it is also good to acknowledge that not everybody need aspire to someone else’s definition of greatness.

Maybe it’s “awesome” to be average. (Nonfiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8753-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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A killer thriller.

THREE HOURS IN PARIS

Black takes time out from chronicling the neighborhood-themed exploits of half-French detective Aimée Leduc to introduce a heroine as American as apple pie.

Kate Rees never expected to see Paris again, especially not under these circumstances. Born and bred in rural Oregon, she earned a scholarship to the Sorbonne, where she met Dafydd, a handsome Welshman who stole her heart. The start of World War II finds the couple stationed in the Orkney Islands, where Kate impresses Alfred Stepney of the War Department with the rifle skills she developed helping her dad and five brothers protect the family’s cattle. After unimaginable tragedy strikes, Stepney recruits Kate for a mission that will allow her to channel her newly ignited rage against the Germans who’ve just invaded France. She’s parachuted into the countryside, where her fluent French should help her blend in. Landing in a field, she hops a milk train to Paris, where she plans to shoot Adolf Hitler as he stands on the steps of Sacre-Coeur. Instead, she kills his admiral and has to flee through the streets of Paris, struggling to hook up with the rescuers who are supposed to extract her. Meanwhile, Gunter Hoffman, a career policeman in a wartime assignment with the Reichssicherheitsdienst security forces, is charged with finding the assassin who dared attempt to kill the Führer. It’s hard to see how it can end well for both the cop and the cowgirl. The heroine’s flight is too episodic to capitalize on Black’s skill at character development, but she’s great at raising readers’ blood pressure.

A killer thriller.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Occasionally mannered but heartfelt throughout and indisputably timely.

HER RIGHT FOOT

Everyone knows what the Statue of Liberty stands for—but, as Eggers notes, she’s not actually “standing” at all.

Taking his time, as usual, at getting to the point, Eggers opens with the often told tale of the monument’s origins, preliminary construction, deconstruction, and shipping to “a city called New York, which is in a state also called New York.” He describes the statue’s main features, from crown to gown (“a very heavy kind of garment,” likely to cause “serious lower back issues”)—and points out that her right heel is not planted but lifted. What does this signify? That “…she is walking! This 150 foot woman is on the go!” She’s stepping out into the harbor, he suggests, to give new arrivals from Italy and Norway, Cambodia and Estonia, Syrians, Liberians, and all who have or will come an eager welcome. After all, he writes, she’s an immigrant too, and: “She is not content to wait.” In Harris’ ink-and–construction-paper collages, Parisian street scenes give way to close-up views of the brown (later green) ambulatory statue, alternating with galleries of those arrivals and their descendants, who are all united in their very diversity of age, sex, dress, and skin color. Photos, including one of the Emma Lazarus poem, cap this urgent defense of our “Golden Door.”

Occasionally mannered but heartfelt throughout and indisputably timely. (bibliography, source list) (Picture book. 9-13, adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6281-2

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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