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A thought-provoking environmental tale featuring a lovable hero.

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A debut middle-grade novel chronicles the adventures of a seventh grader who, while solving crimes against nature, embarks on a painful but revelatory journey of self-discovery.

Set in near future Venice Beach, the story revolves around KyRose Sanchez, a student at a STEM-focused school who has an uncanny ability to communicate with animals. Although she loves creatures of all kinds and is involved in local animal welfare issues (such as saving an injured dolphin she calls Misty and helping a pair of eagles named Gabriella and Merlin, whose ecosystem has been destroyed), her biggest wish is to be one of the popular kids, like Georgia Alister Schmidt. An archetypal mean girl, Georgia is captain of the soccer team. But while students compete in a contest creating innovative gadgets to potentially help astronauts about to land on Mars, KyRose decides that she’ll do anything to be popular—and get invited to one of Georgia’s exclusive parties. Yet in her quest to join Georgia’s circle—and not be a “freak” who talks to animals—KyRose jeopardizes her relationship with her best friend, Cora Lee, and loses focus on everything that makes her uniquely herself. The environmental thread of the engaging narrative is obviously a strength—KyRose’s own mother works for a developer who wants to forcibly relocate an animal sanctuary. But the ingenuity and groundbreaking ideas that the students come up with (like echolocation vests) are worthy of mention, and wildly empowering to young readers. Also of note are Bricault’s appealing protagonist and the subtle social commentary throughout. In one instance, KyRose’s obsession with her “digi-bracelet” (a highly advanced smartphone) makes her unaware of a significant event happening right next to her: “I was staring at my bracelet the whole time.” This story could mark the start of an entertaining series for middle-grade readers.

A thought-provoking environmental tale featuring a lovable hero.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-578-38232-6

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2022

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From the Questioneers series , Vol. 2

Adventure, humor, and smart, likable characters make for a winning chapter book.

Ada Twist’s incessant stream of questions leads to answers that help solve a neighborhood crisis.

Ada conducts experiments at home to answer questions such as, why does Mom’s coffee smell stronger than Dad’s coffee? Each answer leads to another question, another hypothesis, and another experiment, which is how she goes from collecting data on backyard birds for a citizen-science project to helping Rosie Revere figure out how to get her uncle Ned down from the sky, where his helium-filled “perilous pants” are keeping him afloat. The Questioneers—Rosie the engineer, Iggy Peck the architect, and Ada the scientist—work together, asking questions like scientists. Armed with knowledge (of molecules and air pressure, force and temperature) but more importantly, with curiosity, Ada works out a solution. Ada is a recognizable, three-dimensional girl in this delightfully silly chapter book: tirelessly curious and determined yet easily excited and still learning to express herself. If science concepts aren’t completely clear in this romp, relationships and emotions certainly are. In playful full- and half-page illustrations that break up the text, Ada is black with Afro-textured hair; Rosie and Iggy are white. A closing section on citizen science may inspire readers to get involved in science too; on the other hand, the “Ode to a Gas!” may just puzzle them. Other backmatter topics include the importance of bird study and the threat palm-oil use poses to rainforests.

Adventure, humor, and smart, likable characters make for a winning chapter book. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3422-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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