ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN AND THE CASE OF THE SECRET UFOS

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.

DRAGONS VS. UNICORNS

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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The science is interesting; the flat story is less so.

THE STEM NIGHT DISASTER

From the Kate the Chemist series

Kate might get to impress her scientist hero—if she can stop her saboteur.

Fifth grader Kate, a White girl in a diverse school, loves chemistry. She loves science class, science projects, and watching her favorite pop scientist, Dr. Caroline, on YouTube. So she’s overwhelmed when she learns that her school’s received a grant to have a STEM night, and the judge they’re flying in to evaluate the fifth grade science projects is Kate’s beloved Dr. Caroline. Each of her friends knows immediately what science project they’ll do. Elijah, a Black boy who loves drumming, explores sound quality. Birdie, a South Asian girl who loves art, experiments with ink chromatography. But Kate, who, in her own words, is “obsessed” with science, has no idea what to do. After a hubris-fueled false start, Kate gets a clever (and YouTube-ready) idea, but someone in the school is sabotaging her. Parts of her experiment keep being destroyed, and someone writes mean things on her science fair poster. Kate’s use of science to solve the mystery works well within the plot; one sequence explains how to dust for fingerprints with cocoa powder. Uninteresting science clip art doesn’t add much artistic spice, but the included fruit-battery experiment (which requires equipment which might be present in the home) is a good choice. The series protagonist’s obsession with author avatar Dr. Caroline is a throughline that’s run its course.

The science is interesting; the flat story is less so. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11661-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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