This smart, humorous tale should inspire girls to dream big, experiment, and problem-solve through challenges.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE BOSSY

From the Best Babysitters Ever series , Vol. 2

In this follow-up to Best Babysitters Ever (2019), Malia, Bree, and Dot need money to go see their favorite pop star in concert. Problem is, these middle schoolers don’t have time to increase their babysitting service hours to earn it.

Malia is forced into an internship with her evil older sister and an even more demanding boss. Bree has just adopted a ferocious cat that she has to watch at all times to prevent it from destroying the entire house. Dot has to get ready for the big science fair. To solve their concert fundraising problem, Malia comes up with the idea to subcontract to “satellite” sitters who can babysit in their place while paying them a percentage. After training their new recruits, the girls soon realize it’s more complicated than they imagined. With third-person perspective shifting chapter by chapter, the girls struggle with their responsibilities while slowly regretting their decision as they discover that the satellite sitters threaten to replace their bosses in the hearts of their charges. With lessons smoothly woven into the storytelling—Bree’s cat’s psychotherapist has advice that applies amazingly well to humans, for instance—the narrative neatly balances humor and wisdom. The book’s cover shows Malia to be black, Dot to be white, and Bree to have light brown skin and long, dark hair.

This smart, humorous tale should inspire girls to dream big, experiment, and problem-solve through challenges. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85090-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat,...

EXILE

From the Keeper of the Lost Cities series , Vol. 2

Full-blown middle-volume-itis leaves this continuation of the tale of a teenage elf who has been genetically modified for so-far undisclosed purposes dead in the water.

As the page count burgeons, significant plot developments slow to a trickle. Thirteen-year-old Sophie manifests yet more magical powers while going head-to-head with hostile members of the Lost Cities Council and her own adoptive elvin father, Grady, over whether the clandestine Black Swan cabal, her apparent creators and (in the previous episode) kidnappers, are allies or enemies. Messenger tries to lighten the tone by dressing Sophie and her classmates at the Hogwarts-ian Foxfire Academy as mastodons for a silly opening ceremony and by having her care for an alicorn—a winged unicorn so magnificent that even its poop sparkles. It’s not enough; two sad memorial services, a trip to a dreary underground prison, a rash of adult characters succumbing to mental breakdowns and a frequently weepy protagonist who is increasingly shunned as “the girl who was taken” give the tale a soggy texture. Also, despite several cryptic clues and a late attack by hooded figures, neither the identity nor the agenda of the Black Swan comes closer to being revealed.

However tried and true, the Harry Potter–esque elements and set pieces don’t keep this cumbersome coming-of-age tale afloat, much less under way. (Fantasy 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4596-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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