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 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories.


Percy Jackson takes a break from adventuring to serve up the Greek gods like flapjacks at a church breakfast.

Percy is on form as he debriefs readers concerning Chaos, Gaea, Ouranos and Pontus, Dionysus, Ariadne and Persephone, all in his dude’s patter: “He’d forgotten how beautiful Gaea could be when she wasn’t all yelling up in his face.” Here they are, all 12 Olympians, plus many various offspring and associates: the gold standard of dysfunctional families, whom Percy plays like a lute, sometimes lyrically, sometimes with a more sardonic air. Percy’s gift, which is no great secret, is to breathe new life into the gods. Closest attention is paid to the Olympians, but Riordan has a sure touch when it comes to fitting much into a small space—as does Rocco’s artwork, which smokes and writhes on the page as if hit by lightning—so readers will also meet Makaria, “goddess of blessed peaceful deaths,” and the Theban Teiresias, who accidentally sees Athena bathing. She blinds him but also gives him the ability to understand the language of birds. The atmosphere crackles and then dissolves, again and again: “He could even send the Furies after living people if they committed a truly horrific crime—like killing a family member, desecrating a temple, or singing Journey songs on karaoke night.”

The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories. (Mythology. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-8364-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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Middle school worries and social issues skillfully woven into a moving, hopeful, STEM-related tale.


Following the precise coordinates of geocaching doesn’t yield the treasure Kirby Zagonski Jr. seeks: his missing father.

Geeky eighth-grader Kirby can’t understand why his mother won’t call his dad after their generous landlady dies and they’re evicted for nonpayment of rent. Though his parents have been divorced for several years and his father, a wealthy developer, has been unreliable, Kirby is sure he could help. Instead he and his mother move to the Community Hospitality Center, a place “for the poor. The unfortunate. The homeless.” Suddenly A-student Kirby doesn’t have a quiet place to do his schoolwork or even a working pencil. They share a “family room” with a mother and young son fleeing abuse. Trying to hide this from his best friends, Gianna and Ruby, is a struggle, especially as they spend after-school hours together. The girls help him look for the geocaches visited by “Senior Searcher,” a geocacher Kirby is sure is his father. There are ordinary eighth-grade complications in this contemporary friendship tale, too; Gianna just might be a girlfriend, and there’s a dance coming up. Kirby’s first-person voice is authentic, his friends believable, and the adults both sometimes helpful and sometimes unthinkingly cruel. The setting is the largely white state of Vermont, but the circumstances could be anywhere.

Middle school worries and social issues skillfully woven into a moving, hopeful, STEM-related tale. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68119-548-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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