Really just a jumble—but expertly designed as browser bait.

A wide-ranging skulk down hidden byways of spycraft, history, nature, food, archaeology, and more.

The title reflects only the general drift of the contents. Along with quick introductions to codes and ciphers, ninjas, secret agents, tiny cameras, and the like, the authors chuck in spreads on the U.S. president’s armored car, the infrastructure of Rome’s Colosseum, great white sharks, the Rosetta Stone, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and other foods with secret formulas, women who “dressed as dudes” to disguise their sex, and dozens of other tangential, if crowd-pleasing, topics. Readers eager for mentions of, say, Gitmo, QAnon, or the deep state will be disappointed, but there is an interview with an actual CIA agent as well as some lesser-known spy stuff headed by an entertaining account of a “psychic arms race” between the Cold War rivals. The illustrations, a strong point as usual, mix sharply reproduced photos of people, places, and gear with close-ups of children playing spy—the last an invitation to follow the directions for several “tradecraft”-related projects like making invisible ink or setting up a network of secret informants (all in fun, of course). Human figures in the pictures are diverse of age, sex, and race. Each chapter presents readers with an encoded riddle, answers to which are revealed at the end.

Really just a jumble—but expertly designed as browser bait. (index) (Nonfiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3912-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021



An authentic and moving time capsule of middle school angst, trauma, and joy.

Through the author’s own childhood diary entries, a seventh grader details her inner life before and after 9/11.

Alyssa’s diary entries start in September 2000, in the first week of her seventh grade year. She’s 11 and dealing with typical preteen concerns—popularity and anxiety about grades—along with other things more particular to her own life. She’s shuffling between Queens and Manhattan to share time between her divorced parents and struggling with thick facial hair and classmates who make her feel like she’s “not a whole person” due to her mixed White and Puerto Rican heritage. Alyssa is endlessly earnest and awkward as she works up the courage to talk to her crush, Alejandro; gushes about her dreams of becoming a shoe designer; and tries to solve her burgeoning unibrow problem. The diaries also have a darker side, as a sense of impending doom builds as the entries approach 9/11, especially because Alyssa’s father works in finance in the World Trade Center. As a number of the diary entries are taken directly from the author’s originals, they effortlessly capture the loud, confusing feelings middle school brings out. The artwork, in its muted but effective periwinkle tones, lends a satisfying layer to the diary’s accessible and delightful format.

An authentic and moving time capsule of middle school angst, trauma, and joy. (author's note) (Graphic memoir. 8-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-77427-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021



A measured corrective to pervasive myths about what is often referred to as the “first Thanksgiving.”

Contextualizing them within a Native perspective, Newell (Passamaquoddy) touches on the all-too-familiar elements of the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving and its origins and the history of English colonization in the territory now known as New England. In addition to the voyage and landfall of the Mayflower, readers learn about the Doctrine of Discovery that arrogated the lands of non-Christian peoples to European settlers; earlier encounters between the Indigenous peoples of the region and Europeans; and the Great Dying of 1616-1619, which emptied the village of Patuxet by 1620. Short, two- to six-page chapters alternate between the story of the English settlers and exploring the complex political makeup of the region and the culture, agriculture, and technology of the Wampanoag—all before covering the evolution of the holiday. Refreshingly, the lens Newell offers is a Native one, describing how the Wampanoag and other Native peoples received the English rather than the other way around. Key words ranging from estuary to discover are printed in boldface in the narrative and defined in a closing glossary. Nelson (a member of the Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Chippewa) contributes soft line-and-color illustrations of the proceedings. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Essential. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-72637-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Scholastic Nonfiction

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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