A thought-provoking speculation about the nature of reality.

THE INFINITE LIVES OF MAISIE DAY

Maisie Day’s life stops on her 10th birthday—or perhaps it begins.

Combining theoretical astrophysics and sibling dynamics, Edge (The Jamie Drake Equation, 2018, etc.) weaves another science-based tale. Maisie is “academically gifted,” curious about how the universe works, tutored at home after a bad school experience, and doing university-level studies in math and physics online. Her resentful 15-year-old sister, Lily, follows a more usual path, facing high school exams and peer pressures. Chapter by chapter, Maisie’s first-person, present-tense narration alternates between versions of her 10th birthday: the morning before a fatal accident and the disorienting experience of waking up in a virtual reality that begins with the same day. The disorientation is echoed in the reader’s experience as the ending of each chapter seems to lead into the beginning of the one that follows—but in a different existence. In the story, the experience of passing through a black hole is likened to the gradual destruction of a computer game from the inside, with time and space stretching; passing through the singularity at the black hole’s heart allows entrance into a different reality. An author’s note will help readers think about the science concepts introduced. These white-presenting girls are not particularly convincing characters, and the description of public education is uninformed, but the fact that the science-obsessed protagonist is female is positive.

A thought-provoking speculation about the nature of reality. (Science fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-64640-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot.

A GALAXY OF SEA STARS

In sixth grade, Izzy Mancini’s cozy, loving world falls apart.

She and her family have moved out of the cottage she grew up in. Her mother has spent the summer on Block Island instead of at home with Izzy. Her father has recently returned from military service in Afghanistan partially paralyzed and traumatized. The only people she can count on are Zelda and Piper, her best friends since kindergarten—that is, until the Haidary family moves into the upstairs apartment. At first, Izzy resents the new guests from Afghanistan even though she knows she should be grateful that Dr. Haidary saved her father’s life. But despite her initial resistance (which manifests at times as racism), as Izzy gets to know Sitara, the Haidarys’ daughter, she starts to question whether Zelda and Piper really are her friends for forever—and whether she has the courage to stand up for Sitara against the people she loves. Ferruolo weaves a rich setting, fully immersing readers in the largely white, coastal town of Seabury, Rhode Island. Disappointingly, the story resolves when Izzy convinces her classmates to accept Sitara by revealing the Haidarys’ past as American allies, a position that put them in so much danger that they had to leave home. The idea that Sitara should be embraced only because her family supported America, rather than simply because she is a human being, significantly undermines the purported message of tolerance for all.

A beautifully rendered setting enfolds a disappointing plot. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-30909-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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