Nonmilitary kids should enjoy seeing the challenges and fun of living on base. A series, perhaps? (Fiction. 8-12)

ARMY BRATS

The Bailey family adjusts to life on a military post for the first time.

Mom is an intelligence officer, while Dad works as a graphic artist from home. The kids are excited about the new independence that life on a military post allows them. The post is pretty much open to the kids: a movie theater, the PX, the ice cream shop, the pool, and anywhere else where dependents are allowed. This freedom leads the kids to explore a mysterious, abandoned building, which is in a restricted area. While the mystery is exciting, containing just the right amount of tension and scary situations, it’s the relationship among the children that gives the story life. Eight-year-old Rosie, adopted from China at 3, might be cute to strangers, but her bossiness causes her to have trouble making friends. Charlotte, nearly 11, enjoys the cool girls, even if they are mean, while Tom, the oldest, struggles with dyslexia and is in the same grade as Charlotte; both are white and the biological children of Mom and Dad. Tom emits what his family calls the “screech of doom” when he is surprised, making him the target of a bully on the first day of school. There are some rather unlikely situations (obedient military kids entering a locked building at night? Rosie’s scream of “IED!!” in a PX??), but the overall story is exciting.

Nonmilitary kids should enjoy seeing the challenges and fun of living on base. A series, perhaps? (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-93205-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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