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

I WAS AN OUTER-SPACE CHICKEN

From the Alien Math series , Vol. 1

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 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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