IF YOU COULD HAVE A SUPER POWER...

A compassionate superhero tale that highlights ways to help others.

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A boy uses his superpowers to help others in Duncan’s children’s book.

After 9-year-old Mitch’s aunt Evie asks, “If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?,” he develops the ability to turn invisible and fly while leaving his physical body behind, like an astral projection. Using these powers, he witnesses a boy named Kyle steal a pencil case from a classmate. He soon finds out that Kyle stole it as a gift for his sad sister, and that his family lives in a shelter, on the run from his abusive father. Mitch befriends the troubled boy, and Mitch’s family grows close to Kyle’s mom and sister, as well. Although Kyle still faces challenges—he’s often absent from school, thinks about running away, and has dyslexia—his new friendship makes him feel more comfortable. Mitch continues to use his powers, keeping them hidden from everyone except Aunt Evie, who reveals that superpowers are a family trait (she communicated with animals at his age) that he’ll eventually outgrow. He notes that “maybe other kids needed help, too,” including a boy named Kenny, who’s orphaned and living with an ill-equipped uncle. As Mitch’s powers wane, he channels energy into his friendships, reading books, crafting stories, volunteering at a dog rescue, and other activities. Although Mitch’s circumstance is fantastical, it serves as a fine metaphor for how everyone can all use their unique abilities in order to help others in need. Duncan presents several portrayals of empathy and kindness that readers will find uplifting. The author also nicely models caring friendships and tight family bonds; the sense of solidarity between Aunt Evie and Mitch, for example, is particularly heartening. Although the tale is told mainly from Mitch’s viewpoint, it’s interspersed with italicized segments that effectively provide flashes of backstory and insight from others’ perspectives, including Kyle and Kenny. Bender’s colorful illustrations of various characters and events appear throughout; the chapter headings, in particular, seem to cleverly draw inspiration from comic books, with their bold black text and bright yellow shapes.

A compassionate superhero tale that highlights ways to help others.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-52-558598-2

Page Count: -

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2021

THE WORLD-FAMOUS NINE

A whodunit that doesn’t live up to its intriguing premise.

Coded clues put two young sleuths on the trail of a magic mandala hidden somewhere in a huge, bustling department store.

Hardly has meek young Zander Olinga arrived for a visit with Zina Winebee, his grandmother and owner-manager of the Number Nine Plaza, than he learns of a threat to the continued existence of the renowned emporium. The danger is linked to Darkbloom, a rumored evil spirit set on reversing the good-fortune charm left by Nepali monks at the store’s founding. The stone tablet bearing the magical mandala vanished 90 years ago, and finding its hiding place becomes a race pitting Zander and intrepid new ally Natasha Novikov against unknown saboteurs whose minds have been taken over by Darkbloom. The keys to the tablet’s location are a series of ingenious word and number clues left by Zander’s great-granduncle Vladimir, and Guterson provides enough hints along the way for savvy readers to decode them. What he doesn’t do is give either his leads or the many-faceted store (which, over the course of the story, is explored from the Ferris wheel on its roof to the bakery in the cellar) any more depth or distinctive traits than he gives Nepali religious practice. Darkbloom remains a shadowy bugaboo, its actual nature and motivations unexplained and its fate left anticlimactically unresolved. Zander’s father is from Cameroon, and his mother reads white; names cue some diversity in the supporting cast. Final art not seen. (This review has been updated for factual accuracy.)

A whodunit that doesn’t live up to its intriguing premise. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2024

ISBN: 9780316484442

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

HOW TÍA LOLA CAME TO (VISIT) STAY

From the Tía Lola Stories series , Vol. 1

Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay.

Renowned Latin American writer Alvarez has created another story about cultural identity, but this time the primary character is 11-year-old Miguel Guzmán. 

When Tía Lola arrives to help the family, Miguel and his hermana, Juanita, have just moved from New York City to Vermont with their recently divorced mother. The last thing Miguel wants, as he's trying to fit into a predominantly white community, is a flamboyant aunt who doesn't speak a word of English. Tía Lola, however, knows a language that defies words; she quickly charms and befriends all the neighbors. She can also cook exotic food, dance (anywhere, anytime), plan fun parties, and tell enchanting stories. Eventually, Tía Lola and the children swap English and Spanish ejercicios, but the true lesson is "mutual understanding." Peppered with Spanish words and phrases, Alvarez makes the reader as much a part of the "language" lessons as the characters. This story seamlessly weaves two culturaswhile letting each remain intact, just as Miguel is learning to do with his own life. Like all good stories, this one incorporates a lesson just subtle enough that readers will forget they're being taught, but in the end will understand themselves, and others, a little better, regardless of la lengua nativa—the mother tongue.

Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80215-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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