Colossally cool.

READ REVIEW

THE COLOSSUS OF ROADS

Los Angeles’ infamous traffic scene is a hot mess, and it’s up to 11-year-old Rick Rusek to fix it.

Deep in the San Fernando Valley lives the audacious young problem-solver, poring over maps of LA’s highways and streets to diagnose a way to unclog the county’s traffic woes. Ironically, Rick can’t bear car trips due to an unrelenting case of motion sickness. Just ask his chatty stomach, a cheeseburger-obsessed conversationalist that helps Rick with unknotting the trickiest of ideas. Rick’s chats with his stomach offer one source of reassurance after he finds out that his parents’ catering business, Smotch (roots: Polish food), risks falling into financial troubles due in part to LA’s notorious traffic flow. Convinced that his Snarl Solutions could help alleviate his parents’ problems if only someone in power would listen, Rick joins his neighbor’s Girl Scout group, led by a celebrated street artist with familial ties to the head of LA’s Department of Transportation. Can the “Colossus of Roads” save his parents’ business and lead LA toward a brighter future? Uss’ slice of whimsy teleports readers to the smog-filled, congested streets of Los Angeles and gives them a hearty appreciation for big, improbable ideas. Thanks to a fun cast of eclectic characters, the author manages to temper the story’s more peculiar moments, but it’s her soft mix of humor and insight that steals the spotlight. Though Rick’s neighbors are Latinx, the book’s default seems to be white.

Colossally cool. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4450-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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An introduction to teen social and emotional issues that takes care not to delve too deeply into the darker side of things.

THE PERFECT SCORE

From the Perfect Score series , Vol. 1

Middle school students contend with standardized tests.

Flawed and gifted in equal amounts, Natalie, Randi, Trevor, Mark, Gavin, and Scott, whether they know it or not, are all looking for solutions. Multiple points of view within the conceit of an investigation of a standardized-test cheating scheme focus on each student’s personal, social, and familial issues, tackled in different ways with support from their teachers and friends. However, many of the fixes are formulaic or temporary—for example, though they’ve made friendships or improved in reading, there are no plans in place for the kids with behavioral or learning disorders—and readers will have to think outside of the book and past the happy ending to realize that the problems haven’t been fully solved. While the negative impact of standardized tests on students is addressed provocatively, the sometimes-facile treatment of other problems—an abusive brother, parental judgement and criticism, relative poverty, ethical conundrums, friendlessness, dyslexia, impulse control—lends the book a superficial air. (Race is not an issue explored, as the book seems to subscribe to the white default.) Still, readers will be drawn in by the lively voices and eventful lives of these likable and engaging students and may gain some insight and empathy into the plights of others.

An introduction to teen social and emotional issues that takes care not to delve too deeply into the darker side of things. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93825-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Readers will cheer the birth of this comedian.

STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG!

Eleven-year-old Yumi Chung doesn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch, but she secretly harbors dreams of becoming a comedian. Shy + Asian + Girl = Comedian? Why, yes. Yes, it does.

Winston Preparatory Academy is a shy person’s nightmare. Yumi hides from the beautiful girls and the bullies who call her “Yu-meat” because she smells like her parents’ Korean barbecue restaurant. This summer, her parents are demanding that she go to Korean summer school, or hagwon, to get a near-perfect score on the high school entrance exam—because that is the only way to attend an elite college, like her superachiever sister, a 20-year-old med student. Yumi collects all of her fears and frustrations (and jokes) in her Super-Secret Comedy Notebook. When a case of mistaken identity allows her to attend a comedy camp taught by her YouTube idol, Yumi is too panicked to correct the problem—and then it spirals out of control. With wonderful supporting characters, strong pacing, and entertaining comedy bits, debut author Kim has woven a pop song of immigrant struggle colliding with comedy and Korean barbecue. With their feet in two different cultures, readers listen in on honest conversations, full of halting English and unspoken truths painting a realistic picture of 21st-century first-generation Americans—at least a Korean version. By becoming someone else, Yumi learns more about herself and her family in an authentic and hilarious way.

Readers will cheer the birth of this comedian. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-55497-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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