Not flawless but decidedly offbeat and emotionally true.

ZINNIA AND THE BEES

Zinnia’s convinced nothing could be worse than her beloved older brother’s sudden, unexplained departure, which leaves her alone with their overbearing dentist mother—till a colony of honeybees takes up residence in her hair.

Zinnia responds by wearing a hoodie at all times and staying in her room to knit whenever possible. On a rare outing she meets unflappable Birch, the neighbor’s visiting nephew, who is the only person to notice Zinnia’s bees. Together they search for Adam and try to figure out how to divest Zinnia’s hair of her unwanted tenants. Davis’ debut demands that readers check their disbelief at the door. In addition to the bees, she draws secondary characters with broad brushes, especially do-gooder Dr. Flossdrop, who seems determined to alienate her entire family. But she manages to keep it together, embedding readers in Zinnia’s believable, often funny perspective with occasional cutaways to the bees, who narrate their side of the misadventure in a wry collective voice that combines snippets of bee biology with fancy (they break dance to “combat despair”). Bee cognoscenti will scoff at the sheer ridiculousness of the premise, but its extreme silliness works its own magic to mitigate this and other hard-to-believe moments, such as the ease with which the rift between Zinnia and her former BFFs seems to be healed. Zinnia, her family, and Birch are evidently white. Horton’s illustrations not seen.

Not flawless but decidedly offbeat and emotionally true. (Fabulism. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62370-867-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy.

ALMOST SUPER

Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them.

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day?

A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220961-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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