Readers will wish their summers were so eventful.

THE ISLAND OF DR. LIBRIS

Billy Gillfoyle discovers that a powerful imagination can bring characters from books—and comic books, video games and role-playing-game cards—to life.

Unhappily spending the summer with his mother in a lakeshore cabin she’s rented from a university colleague, the 12-year-old finds no Internet or TV but plenty of books in a locked cabinet. (Finding the key is a relatively easy puzzle.) When he reads The Trials of Hercules in Dr. Xiang Libris’ library, he hears the voices of Hercules and Antaeus outside. They’re fighting on an island just offshore. Reading Robin Hood, he hears the sound of swordplay. When he explores the island the next morning, he meets the characters he heard, not only brought to life, but also interacting with each other. Grabenstein’s similarly powerful imagination unfurls a grand series of adventures in which Billy and neighbor Walter Andrews are pursued by the Sheriff of Nottingham, search for buried treasure with Tom Sawyer and save Billy’s parents’ failing marriage. In this entertaining literary romp, the author includes references to over 20 classic tales, from Aesop’s Fables to Holes. For curious readers, he’s listed the titles at the end, but familiarity with these stories is not required to appreciate this fast-paced fantasy.

Readers will wish their summers were so eventful. (Adventure. 9-13)

Pub Date: March 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38844-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle. (Science fiction. 9-12)

HOUSE OF ROBOTS

From the House of Robots series , Vol. 1

Sammy is less than thrilled when his genius inventor mother creates a robot brother for him.

Sammy Hayes-Rodriguez's life has always been filled with robots. His mother has invented automatons that clean the floors, mow the lawn, give traffic reports and even plant fantastic gardens. Sammy's school has until now been a robot-free zone, but when Mom invents E (for Egghead, or maybe Einstein Jr.—his parents can’t decide) and insists Sammy take the new robot to school, things get out of hand. Chronicling the ups and downs of an entire school year with a robot brother, the authors put cute sci-fi twists on first-time crushes, school bullies and best-friend troubles. There's nothing here that breaks new ground or illuminates the psyche of young boys in any new or interesting ways, but there are plenty of amusing jokes. Young readers with an interest in science will certainly be engaged. A subplot featuring Sammy's younger sister, a brilliant girl who is homebound by severe combined immunodeficiency disorder, is as by-the-numbers as the rest of the book, but it doesn't tie in to the robot plot until the very end. It's hard to tell if this development is a clumsy climax or an awkward setup for a sequel. Either way, it doesn't work well with everything that came beforehand.

A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle.  (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-40591-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Newbery Medal Winner

THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

more