Readers will swallow this book whole, appetites whet for the next installment.

SUMMER IN THE CITY

From the Mango Delight series , Vol. 2

Mango Delight’s summer takes a detour when she is asked to star in an off-off-off-Broadway musical in New York City.

Mango, a 12 ½-year-old black girl, is just about to settle into her summer vacation routine, babysitting her toddler brother and hanging out with her best friend, when the director of the school musical she starred in in her eponymous debut (2017) invites her to star in the same play—but this time with professional actors in NYC. Once her parents give permission, Mango must contend with her own fears and homesickness, and she faces obstacles including obnoxious co-stars, a case of imposter syndrome, and long-distance fights with her best friend. And the boy she likes is staying in the city too, which makes things even more exciting—and confusing. Mango is a very imperfect, sympathetic protagonist whose humorous perspective is fun to share as she stumbles from one adventure to another, trying to stay true to herself in the process; she peppers her narration with text-message transcripts. Believable secondary characters and lighthearted middle school angst make this journey worth the ride, but Mango’s fascination with white beauty standards detracts a bit from the fun storyline. Mango’s Jamaican dad is a chef trying to get a catering company off the ground while her mom, who has a prosthetic leg, works at Target in order to afford the family’s insurance.

Readers will swallow this book whole, appetites whet for the next installment. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4549-3394-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Clever as ever—if slow off the mark—and positively laden with tics, quirks, and puns.

THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY AND THE RIDDLE OF AGES

From the Mysterious Benedict Society series , Vol. 4

When deadly minions of archvillain Ledroptha Curtain escape from prison, the talented young protégés of his twin brother, Nicholas Benedict, reunite for a new round of desperate ploys and ingenious trickery.

Stewart sets the reunion of cerebral Reynie Muldoon Perumal, hypercapable Kate Wetherall, shy scientific genius George “Sticky” Washington, and spectacularly sullen telepath Constance Contraire a few years after the previous episode, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma (2009). Providing relief from the quartet’s continual internecine squabbling and self-analysis, he trucks in Tai Li, a grubby, precociously verbal 5-year-old orphan who also happens to be telepathic. (Just to even the playing field a bit, the bad guys get a telepath too.) Series fans will know to be patient in wading through all the angst, arguments, and flurries of significant nose-tapping (occasionally in unison), for when the main action does at long last get under way—the five don’t even set out from Mr. Benedict’s mansion together until more than halfway through—the Society returns to Nomansan Island (get it?), the site of their first mission, for chases, narrow squeaks, hastily revised stratagems, and heroic exploits that culminate in a characteristically byzantine whirl of climactic twists, triumphs, and revelations. Except for brown-skinned George and olive-complected, presumably Asian-descended Tai, the central cast defaults to white; Reynie’s adoptive mother is South Asian.

Clever as ever—if slow off the mark—and positively laden with tics, quirks, and puns. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-45264-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Megan Tingley/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A splendid adventure, hilarious and harrowing in turn and so strongly cast that even the precocious pocket primate doesn’t...

THE IMAGINATION BOX

From the Imagination Box series , Vol. 1

Two young sleuths—three if you count the talking marmoset—narrowly avert worldwide disaster after a truly dangerous device and its inventor vanish suddenly.

Ford works twists both funny and terrifying into the notion of wish fulfillment. Being a nosy sort, 10-year-old Tim soon discovers that Professor Eisenstone, a secretive new guest at the hotel his adoptive parents own, has developed a nano-assembler the size of a microwave oven that creates any item that can be visualized strongly enough. It doesn’t take long for the clever white lad to think into existence Phil, a companion “finger monkey” with posh manners and accent, and also an improved Imagination Box of his own. But almost immediately, Eisenstone and the original are snatched by a villainous ex-politician. Tim and Eisenstone’s equally clever granddaughter, Dee, also white, discover this last by following a trail of clues to (wait for it) a secret lab under a former insane asylum…a perfect setting for both weird science and a massively destructive climax. The author cranks up the horror by giving the box the ability to make tangible not just physical items, but fears and nightmares too. Also, by not blinding his characters to the device’s potential, he invites readers to imagine the implications for themselves.

A splendid adventure, hilarious and harrowing in turn and so strongly cast that even the precocious pocket primate doesn’t steal the show . (Science fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93627-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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