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A delightful mix of science and relationships.

Hoping to fit in, Emma writes a book about how to get a boy’s attention.

As a scientist’s daughter, 12-year-old Emma Sakamoto loves science and knows—and freely shares—a lot of facts. This quirk, plus her flat chest and ragged clothes, draws negative attention from mean girls at school. When Emma meets Cole, her friend George’s cousin who is a teen actor with a large social media following, the opportunity to change her image arises. Emma makes a deal with fashionable new girl Poppy: Emma will share her book on the science of boys to help Poppy get Cole’s attention, and Poppy will help Emma with her image. The only problem is that Emma isn’t actually writing a book, and she can’t stop lying about herself to try to fit in. George agrees to help, but figuring out the formula for attracting boys won’t be easy. Incorporating real science principles, this funny, clever coming-of-age story examines friendship, acceptance, adolescent concerns, and societal messages. Emma also has family troubles: Her mother left them eight months ago, and her father seems depressed. Being lactose intolerant plays a considerable role in Emma’s daily life; many readers will find the dietary restriction relatable. Black-and-white drawings are scattered throughout the book, adding pleasing visual representation and humor. Contextual clues indicate that Canadian Emma has some Japanese heritage; the illustrations show racial diversity in the supporting cast.

A delightful mix of science and relationships. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-926890-40-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Tradewind Books

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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