An animated, if uneven, group of inspiring tales.

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Code 7

CRACKING THE CODE FOR AN EPIC LIFE

Several children work together and separately to make their small community a better place in this debut middle-grade novel. 

Flint Hill Elementary School may seem run-of-the-mill on the outside, but inside, its fifth-grade students are making serious strides. When Jefferson is invited to dream up and paint a mural on the side of the school, he must look within himself and cut out the “white noise” around him to create the best image. At home, Alec finds that you can only let your parents clean up your room so much, and he learns to take more personal responsibility, with some chuckleworthy results. Samantha wants to try out for Little Shop of Horrors, the school’s yearly musical, but a bully and her own fear of falling off the stage (again) stop her from doing so; however, she gracefully steps into the role in a time of need and channels her fears positively. Talmage, fresh off his search for a mystical fish for his father, learns that perseverance can be its own reward. Genevieve must protect some school projects involving eggs but ultimately learns that it’s hard for one person to do it all. Together, the various friends at Flint Hill have qualities that will help anyone, young or old, “crack the code to an epic life,” as the book puts it. Johnson is a purposeful storyteller, and each of his seven tales embodies a different, important characteristic that a successful person should have. The individual stories, though, vary in quality. Some, like the tales of Talmage’s quest against the “Monster” fish and Alec’s quickly dirtying room, effectively get their messages across. Others, like the story of Genevieve and her eggs, may take a little more explanation, especially for younger readers. But even though they’re not all home runs, any of the seven stories is sure to spawn discussion between adults and children about how can they achieve perseverance, caring, and belief in themselves.

An animated, if uneven, group of inspiring tales.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Candy Wrapper

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2016

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Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger.

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE SKELETON ROAD

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 6

The monster-fighting gang from Wakefield departs on a post-apocalyptic road trip.

In this sixth installment of the heavily illustrated, Netflix-adapted series, quirky Jack Sullivan and his friends June, Quint, and Dirk finally leave their creature-ridden town in search of the ultimate baddie, Thrull, who previously deceived them. The quartet takes their tricked-out ride (an armored RV named Bad Mama) onto the open road (with Jack’s Zombie Squad in tow) to find the Outpost, where they believe a certain monster will be able to give them the location of the evil Tower where they believe Thrull now resides. Of course, the journey is littered with all kinds of nightmarish beasts and pitfalls (including an epic water park battle and slime-dripping baby monster), but the kids persist, armed with their endless gadgets and quick thinking. As the group races toward Thrull, the action culminates with an achingly tantalizing cliffhanger; expect audible groans and vociferous demands for the next installment. Fans of this series will revel in this fast-paced escapade with its recognizable black-and-white illustrations and trademark humor. Readers new to the series or those who are only familiar with the animated show may be a bit put off by this later volume that relies heavily on its own language of monsters and weapons. Jack, June, and Dirk are light-skinned; Quint is dark-skinned.

Good fun with a monster of a cliffhanger. (Graphic fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984835-34-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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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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