Though uneven, stirringly hits every despairing low and thrilling high of a sports movie.


Comics and baseball are all Dan needs—before the accident.

Things couldn’t really be going better for 13-year-old Dan. The Mira Giants have just qualified for the Western New York Double Elimination Tournament, and a new Captain Nexus comic is about to come out. Dan’s father is too busy for him these days, but it’s OK, because Dan shares comics and baseball and everything great with his best friend, Nate, the Giants’ amazing pitcher. So Dan’s world seems shattered when Nate is hit with a baseball during practice. Now Nate’s in a coma, and Dan’s falling apart. Maybe if he and Nate’s kid brother make a Captain Nexus fan-fiction comic, that will be the talisman that wakes Nate up? While Nate spirals through rage, fear, and magical thinking, he tries to draw lessons from his beloved comics. But if comics can’t save Nate, Dan’s got nothing left—except encouraging the now-underdog Giants through a series of inspiring speeches and cinematic epiphanies. Long passages describing the Captain Nexus comics are lovingly detailed, showing a passion for the art of the superhero comic, but these moments drag the action to a crawl; in a visual medium, the dynamism depicted would complement the baseball tropes, but in prose, they detract. Dan and most characters appear to be white, though it’s left unclear.

Though uneven, stirringly hits every despairing low and thrilling high of a sports movie. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294305-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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


From the Keeper of the Lost Cities series , Vol. 1

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 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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On equal footing with a garden-variety potato.


The new kid in school endures becoming the school mascot.

Ben Hardy has never cared for potatoes, and this distaste has become a barrier to adjusting to life in his new Idaho town. His school’s mascot is the Spud, and after a series of misfortunes, Ben is enlisted to don the potato costume and cheer on his school’s team. Ben balances his duties as a life-sized potato against his desperate desire to hide the fact that he’s the dork in the suit. After all, his cute new crush, Jayla, wouldn’t be too impressed to discover Ben’s secret. The ensuing novel is a fairly boilerplate middle–grade narrative: snarky tween protagonist, the crush that isn’t quite what she seems, and a pair of best friends that have more going on than our hero initially believes. The author keeps the novel moving quickly, pushing forward with witty asides and narrative momentum so fast that readers won’t really mind that the plot’s spine is one they’ve encountered many times before. Once finished, readers will feel little resonance and move on to the next book in their to-read piles, but in the moment the novel is pleasant enough. Ben, Jayla, and Ben’s friend Hunter are white while Ellie, Ben’s other good pal, is Latina.

On equal footing with a garden-variety potato. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11866-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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