An upbeat and fun series opener capturing the spirit of the source show.

THE COMPETITION BEGINS

From the Junior Ninja Champion series , Vol. 1

A group of kids trains together for an obstacle-course game show.

When popular television show National Ninja Champion (a fictional analog to American Ninja Warrior) announces a spinoff competition for preteens, a group of kids starts training and dreaming big. Ty Santiago is the son of the owners of Fit Kidz gym and a glory-hound athletic superstar. He recruits JJ Johnson, a climber from a family of contractors, to modify the gym’s ninja-room equipment (normally reserved for ages 14 and up) for preteen heights. Cancer survivor Kevin Marshall’s another NNC–loving gym regular, but he hides his ninja-team involvement from his overprotective mother. Rounding out the team are Izzy Fitzgerald, a snooty but rebellious rich girl from a family of runners, and Mackenzie Clark, a science geek and superfan blogger (with two dads). Although the obstacle runs grow repetitive and occasional lines are clunky, the competition element and quick pace are reader-friendly. Once the team jells, external conflicts take a back seat to narratives about how the characters challenge themselves. The overall moral is the importance of having a supportive team (and being a supportive teammate) in this otherwise individual, niche sport, reiterated in a backmatter interview with an American Ninja Warrior competitor. Ty is implied Latino; Kevin is black; the other kids seem to be white by default.

An upbeat and fun series opener capturing the spirit of the source show. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-3287-1058-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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