From the Encyclopedia Brown series

Cranking out the cases for his brainy, perpetually ten-year-old sleuth since 1963, Sobol dishes up ten more—from stolen cookies and rare stamps to faked photos (see title) and a bogus 18th-century diary. Though the plots are as formulaic as they come, that's partly the point, and the easy language and frequent pen-and-ink illustrations provide an enduring draw for fledgling readers; the entertainment value in winkling out the telling clue without having to turn to the solutions in the back is evergreen. There’s usually an artful joke or two to catch, too (“This time it was Flash Borden who came running up. Flash was in fifth grade, like Encyclopedia. His real name was Gordon. He had left Gordon Borden behind in kindergarten. Flash, he had decided, suited him better”—ba-da-boom!), plus some clever wordplay. Interchangeable the volumes may be, but young Brown remains a model for budding detectives everywhere. How pleasing to have a new clutch of mysteries for the rising generation thereof. (Crime fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-525-42210-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers.


From the Kate the Chemist series

A fifth grade girl brings her love of chemistry to the school play.

Kate loves science so much she’s determined to breathe fire. Of course she knows that she needs adult supervision, and so, with her science teacher’s help, Kate demonstrates an experiment with cornstarch and a blowtorch that nearly sets her teacher’s cactus on fire. Consequences ensue. Can someone who loves science as much as Kate does find pleasure spending her fall break at drama camp? It turns out that even the school play—Dragons vs. Unicorns—needs a chemist, though, and Kate saves the day with glue and glitter. She’s sabotaged along the way, but everything is fine after Kate and her frenemy agree to communicate better (an underwhelming response to escalating bullying). Doodles decorate the pages; steps for the one experiment described that can be done at home—making glittery unicorn-horn glue—are included. The most exciting experiments depicted, though, include flames or liquid nitrogen and could only be done with the help of a friendly science teacher. Biberdorf teaches chemistry at the University of Texas and also performs science-education programs as “Kate the Chemist”; in addition to giving her protagonist her name and enthusiasm, she also seems represented in Kate-the-character’s love of the fictional YouTube personality “Dr. Caroline.” Kate and her nemesis are white; Kate’s best friends are black and South Asian.

A fun-if-flimsy vehicle for science lovers. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11655-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Happily, returns to Woods Road Elementary are assured, thanks to the big “1” on the spine. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-10)


From the Clueless McGee series , Vol. 1

Listen up frog-smackers, PJ McGee is ready to solve any mystery!

Fifth-grader PJ McGee wants to be a private detective like his father, who is away on a SECRET MISSION (or at least that’s what PJ thinks). PJ knows he’ll make a great detective because he has been studying ninja moves; plus, he’s incredibly brave, amazingly fast and has a brain five times as big as normal. When PJ’s favorite school lunch (mac and cheese…he’s written a love song to lunch lady Mrs. Browny’s cheesy mac) turns up missing, PI PJ is on the case with his trusty sidekick, third-grader Dante. PJ follows the clues (even though he is sure school bully Jack B is the culprit). Then Jack hires PJ to clear his name! Only a super detective like PJ could solve such a sticky case. Illustrator Mack’s first foray into the cartoon-driven chapter book will be well received by the clueless and the clue-full alike. Each chapter’s a letter from PJ to his absent father detailing progress on the mac-and-cheese case. PJ is charmingly out of touch with reality. His supporting cast—needy little sister, long-suffering mother, mysteriously absent father and a quirky collection of teachers—adds to the laughs. The scribbly cartoons and illustrations are part of the tale and parcel of the fun.

Happily, returns to Woods Road Elementary are assured, thanks to the big “1” on the spine. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-25749-0

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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