A mostly lukewarm second outing.

TROLL CONTROL

From the Gabby Duran series , Vol. 2

Only two days after her first assignment for the Association Linking Intergalactics and Earthlings as Neighbors, 12-year-old Gabby Duran’s cosmically renowned babysitting skills are called back into service.

Ever enthusiastic, the “Sitter to the Unsittables” quickly befriends a lonely young troll whose penchant for thievery and riddles might just make Gabby the most hated member of the Brensville Middle School orchestra. Plucky, positive, and peppy, Gabby remains a one-dimensional yet likable protagonist. Unfortunately for her and for readers, this follow-up to Gabby Duran and the Unsittables (2015) isn’t all that…adventurous. Most of the novel centers on Gabby’s desperate efforts to recover a rare book to be auctioned off to raise funds for the orchestra, all while trying to adhere to strict policies designed to protect A.L.I.E.N.’s secrecy. She risks termination, but there’s no bounty on her head. There are no dark agents hot on her trail. The stakes somehow feel lower this time around, and both tension and intrigue suffer. While the cast of secondary characters remains largely underutilized, one of the best parts about this sequel is that Gabby’s best friend, Zee, is given a slightly larger role than before. With her love of science and gadgetry, Zee is perfectly suited to take part in the alien escapades and to remind preteen readers that it’s cool for girls to be passionate about STEM.

A mostly lukewarm second outing. (Science fiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4847-0936-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

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The young folk and (of course) the animals are engagingly wrought in this tale with a strong ecological message.

WILLODEEN

An orphan loner’s small town faces a hard future after it unwittingly disrupts a natural cycle.

Willodeen is lucky that elderly retired thespians Mae and Birdie took her in after the wildfire that killed her parents and brother, not only because they’re a loving couple, but because they let her roam the woods in search of increasingly rare screechers—creatures so vile-tempered and stinky that the village elders of Perchance have put a bounty on them. The elders have other worries, though: The migratory hummingbears that have long nested in the area, drawing tourists to the lucrative annual Autumn Faire, have likewise nearly vanished. Could there be a connection? If there is, Willodeen is just the person to find it—but who would believe her? Applegate’s characters speak in pronouncements about life and nature that sometimes seem to address readers more than other characters, but the winsome illustrations lighten the thematic load. Screechers appear much like comically fierce warthogs and hummingbears, as small teddies with wings. Applegate traces a burgeoning friendship between her traumatized protagonist and Connor, a young artist who turns found materials into small animals so realistic that one actually comes to life. In the end, the townsfolk do listen and pitch in to make amends. Red-haired, gray-eyed Willodeen is cued as White; Connor has brown skin, and other human characters read as White by default.

The young folk and (of course) the animals are engagingly wrought in this tale with a strong ecological message. (Eco-fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-14740-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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