Readers should readily respond to Jessie’s mission of self-improvement. (Fiction. 10-15)


For quiet eighth-grader Jessie, an assignment about superheroes evolves into a journey of transformation.

Jessie’s superhero research spans the duration of the school year, concluding with a final debate-style competition in which Jessie must demonstrate why her selection is the ultimate superhero. When a longtime rival compares her to a sidekick, Jessie decides to apply her superhero’s qualities to her own life. She soon compiles a list of Batgirl’s traits, including physical and mental capabilities, to nurture. In diary format, Jessie chronicles her diligent research and attempts at self-improvement. While the journal entries convey Jessie’s enthusiasm, they also reveal her insecurities. Pearn’s illustrations further illuminate Jessie’s personality, capturing her inquisitiveness and determination and comically portraying her efforts with zing. Through Jessie’s investigations and discoveries, Zehr provides information on a variety of topics: pioneering women, martial arts, scientific and technological advancements, nutrition and comic-book lore. An aspiring journalist, Jessie conducts a portion of her research through interviews, and Zehr incorporates the actual words of several notable individuals in the narrative. The written responses of a police sergeant, filmmaker, astronaut, Olympic athletes and others to Jessie’s questions motivate her to continue pursuing her goals. Jessie enters the final debate with a newfound wisdom gleaned from her endeavors.

Readers should readily respond to Jessie’s mission of self-improvement. (Fiction. 10-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-77041-180-7

Page Count: 254

Publisher: ECW Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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With plenty of thrills, friendship, some humor, intrigue and an easy good-guys/bad-guys escape plot, young readers will find...


Six middle schoolers + mad scientists + Everglades = adventure.

Cat, along with five other children who have suffered head injuries, goes to what is billed as the pre-eminent neurological center in the world, the International Center for Advanced Neurology, located in the Everglades. At first, she receives excellent care, but she soon overhears an ominous conversation that leads to her discovery of the awful truth: The terrible Dr. Ames and his colleague intend to implant the children with the DNA of long-dead scientists, including Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Marie Curie and even Leonardo da Vinci. Worse, they learn that Trent, who has already received a transplant, has virtually become Thomas Edison. Trent not only has Edison’s DNA, he has Edison’s century-old memories and speech patterns. Cat and her friends seize an opportunity to escape, relying on Trent’s technical expertise and “inherited” memory to evade the bad guys. As she outlines in her author’s note, Messner follows good science in her descriptions of head-injury treatment; she also gives teachers opportunities to explore the differences between hereditary and acquired characteristics in her more fictional genetic “science.” Her characterizations are solid and age-appropriate; Trent, as young Thomas Edison still avidly working on alternating currents, supplies some laughs.

With plenty of thrills, friendship, some humor, intrigue and an easy good-guys/bad-guys escape plot, young readers will find lots of fun here. (Science fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8027-2314-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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A riveting novel that will have readers rooting for its star.

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A teenager faces seemingly insurmountable challenges in this riveting modern-day spinoff of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

For Ana Dakkar and her fellow ninth graders at Harding-Pencroft Academy, there is nothing more momentous than the weekend trials each student must ace at the end of freshman year. Students who fail to showcase their survival skills are asked to leave the academy, a heavily guarded place Ana has thought of as home since the mysterious deaths of her parents. Though Ana’s brother, Dev, is a senior, what happens at trials is such a closely guarded secret that no one in her year knows what to expect. While her group is out on the water for their trials, Harding-Pencroft is demolished in an attack orchestrated by a rival school. As Ana and her classmates discover that the events depicted in Jules Verne’s classic novels were real, Riordan’s lifelong love of the source material is clear—especially when Ana learns information that will help her find a way to protect the group. A foreword by Roshani Chokshi introduces this adventure that is both great entertainment and centers a well-developed protagonist who is thoughtfully shown dealing with loss. Ana is of Bundeli Indian descent, and her group of peers, who are diverse in various ways, experience losses and struggles of their own. (Final illustrations not seen.)

A riveting novel that will have readers rooting for its star. (Harding-Pencroft Academy guide, cast list) (Adventure. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-07792-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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