I WAS AN OUTER-SPACE CHICKEN

From the Alien Math series , Vol. 1

This playful math series is overall a valuable addition to the chapter-book shelf.

Lexie and Lamar are practicing for their math tournament when they are abducted by a creature from another planet.

Fooz thinks that Lexie and Lamar are chickens, since that’s what they called each other just before she abducted them. Since chickens have “extremely low” intelligence, Fooz conducts a discreet intelligence test involving problem-solving and math to determine whether they are in fact not chickens. Solving problems under time pressure livens things up for Lexie and Lamar, who love to use numbers, as well as for readers. But proving their humanity is no help when they are kidnapped. Again and again, math, logic, and numbers get Lexie and Lamar out of sticky situations. Narrator Lexie never misses an opportunity to use numbers in storytelling (“three-inch trickles of sweat were dripping down my back”), making for a well-executed, funny (if hyperfocused) voice. Readers are subtly given opportunities to solve problems while reading. Full-page drawings and smaller spot illustrations break up the text in each chapter, depicting Lamar with brown skin and Lexie as white; both appear somewhat older than readers might expect. A depicted trio of three-eared rabbits looks unfortunately like stereotypical Native Americans. The math will be enough to draw some readers in while the action-packed story will keep the math-averse reading—and perhaps occasionally flexing their math muscles too. Book 2, Planet of the Penguins, publishes simultaneously.

This playful math series is overall a valuable addition to the chapter-book shelf. (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2921-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

TUCK EVERLASTING

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

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

THE MYSTERIOUS MESSENGER

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit.

Eleven-year-old Maria Russo helps her charlatan mother hoodwink customers, but Maria has a spirited secret.

Maria’s mother, the psychic Madame Destine, cons widows out of their valuables with the assistance of their apartment building’s super, Mr. Fox. Madame Destine home-schools Maria, and because Destine is afraid of unwanted attention, she forbids Maria from talking to others. Maria is allowed to go to the library, where new librarian Ms. Madigan takes an interest in Maria that may cause her trouble. Meanwhile, Sebastian, Maria’s new upstairs neighbor, would like to be friends. All this interaction makes it hard for Maria to keep her secret: that she is visited by Edward, a spirit who tells her the actual secrets of Madame Destine’s clients via spirit writing. When Edward urges Maria to help Mrs. Fisher, Madame Destine’s most recent mark, Maria must overcome her shyness and her fear of her mother—helping Mrs. Fisher may be the key to the mysterious past Maria uncovers and a brighter future. Alas, picture-book–creator Ford’s middle-grade debut is a muddled, melodramatic mystery with something of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feel: In addition to the premise, there’s a tragically dead father, a mysterious family tree, and the Beat poets. Sluggish pacing; stilted, unrealistic dialogue; cartoonishly stock characters; and unattractive, flat illustrations make this one to miss. Maria and Sebastian are both depicted with brown skin, hers lighter than his; the other principals appear to be white.

An effort as insubstantial as any spirit. (author’s note) (Paranormal mystery. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20567-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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