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From the Backyard Witch series , Vol. 2

Delightful illustrations and enduring underlying themes make this a fun, quick read.

Just as suddenly as she disappeared at the end of series opener Sadie’s Story (2015), Ms. M the witch pops back into the lives of three besties right when she's needed.

In the first book, a lonely Sadie befriends Ms. M while Jess and Maya are on vacation at Moosehead Lake. This time, Ms. M comes to Jess’ rescue. A natural athlete, Jess excels at basketball, soccer, tennis—just about any sport she tries her hand at. But when it comes to moves in the kitchen, Jess is no match for her chef mom. One afternoon when the babysitter cancels, Jess and her friends decide to make lasagna to surprise her mom. Unfortunately, their good intentions result in a smoked-filled kitchen. Jess is grounded, but all is not lost. Ms. M shows up as her new sitter, and the witch’s outrageous magic stunts and mutual love of sports cheer Jess up. Despite the witty humor, some jokes may go over young readers’ heads. For instance, Jess tries to learn Dog (yes, it’s a language) but “Fra, fra. Foow,” from Jess’ mouth is not the same as “Fra, fra. Foow,” from Ms. M’s. “It’s all in the intonation, dear. Like Chinese.” However, many preteen girls can identify with Jess’ thorny relationship with her mom; no matter how hard she tries, she can’t seem to make her mom happy. Marcero depicts a multiracial trio of friends; Jess and her mom appear to be Asian.

Delightful illustrations and enduring underlying themes make this a fun, quick read. (cooking tips, recipe, resources) (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-233841-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

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. 26, 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...

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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