Like its protagonist, full of heart.

FINDING FORTUNE

Ren (short for Renata) spends her summer after sixth grade in a long-abandoned town near her Midwest home not far from the Mississippi River.

Though the sign for Fortune shows the population as 12, down from 128, Ren has never seen anyone in the dusty streets of the old town. It’s only when a temporary falling out with her mother leads Ren to try to rent a room at the old Fortune Consolidated School, recently turned boardinghouse, that she discovers both the lively past and present of the town. The boardinghouse’s owner, spry but elderly Hildy, plans to create a museum in what was once the school gymnasium. The museum will be filled with memorabilia from the town’s heyday making buttons from clam and mussel shells pulled from the Mississippi. There’s a fortune hidden somewhere in the school—left for Hildy by a brother who never returned from the Korean War. The discovery of its hiding place is left to Ren’s sleuthing with the help of newfound friends. Ren as narrator is appealing: pragmatic, smart, and candid. Ray’s narrative is rich and diverting, full of real history and a complex story for each character, and she adroitly gathers all the threads together. An author’s note explains the novel’s back story in the true history of the Mississippi’s button towns, now faded away.

Like its protagonist, full of heart. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-30065-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle. (Science fiction. 9-12)

HOUSE OF ROBOTS

From the House of Robots series , Vol. 1

Sammy is less than thrilled when his genius inventor mother creates a robot brother for him.

Sammy Hayes-Rodriguez's life has always been filled with robots. His mother has invented automatons that clean the floors, mow the lawn, give traffic reports and even plant fantastic gardens. Sammy's school has until now been a robot-free zone, but when Mom invents E (for Egghead, or maybe Einstein Jr.—his parents can’t decide) and insists Sammy take the new robot to school, things get out of hand. Chronicling the ups and downs of an entire school year with a robot brother, the authors put cute sci-fi twists on first-time crushes, school bullies and best-friend troubles. There's nothing here that breaks new ground or illuminates the psyche of young boys in any new or interesting ways, but there are plenty of amusing jokes. Young readers with an interest in science will certainly be engaged. A subplot featuring Sammy's younger sister, a brilliant girl who is homebound by severe combined immunodeficiency disorder, is as by-the-numbers as the rest of the book, but it doesn't tie in to the robot plot until the very end. It's hard to tell if this development is a clumsy climax or an awkward setup for a sequel. Either way, it doesn't work well with everything that came beforehand.

A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle.  (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-40591-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2015

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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