Readers will revel in Frankie and Walter’s cathartic romp and learn much about grief, family, and friendship along the way.

ONE MIXED-UP NIGHT

Can spending the night in Ikea cure grief?

For best friends Frankie (white) and Walter (mixed-race, black/white), poring over the Ikea catalog and visiting the Ikea furniture store represents shiny-new, TV-show perfection. When they make plans to spend the night at Ikea (influenced by From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler), they’re not sure exactly why, except that they are looking for something “nicer”: different from their loving but careworn, imperfect homes and lives. Frankie has an additional motive: she’s trying to bring back some of Walter’s shine and enthusiasm after a six-month decline in his “essential Walterness.” Frankie narrates with a mix of spunky honesty, compassion, and self-interest appropriate to a preteen. Her concern for Walter is endearing, and in time it is revealed that Walter’s father died recently. Their night at Ikea is desperate fun, full of mishaps, with unexpected emotional highs and lows. The turning point is when Walter admits that although he is processing his grief for his father, he is being crushed by the burden of comforting his mother. With the help of an understanding security guard who finds them and has a frank discussion with their parents, changes are made that allow the friends to realize that they have everything they need to move forward.

Readers will revel in Frankie and Walter’s cathartic romp and learn much about grief, family, and friendship along the way. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-55388-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.

ALMOST SUPER

Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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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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