STAR JUMPER

JOURNAL OF A CARDBOARD GENIUS

Play and reality merge (maybe) in this tale of a lad seeking total escape—as in a flight to the far end of the universe—from an aggressive, worshipful little brother. Despite continual interference from his first-grade–aged nemesis Jonathan, Alex crafts a spaceship in his room from cardboard boxes and found household materials, then goes on after a test ride into space to invent a Micro-Blaster (for protection) and a Duplicator (so he’ll have agreeable companions on his new planet) from like items. Complications ensue when he inadvertently shrinks Jonathan down to the size of a bug, and later, leaves the Duplicator unguarded—but in the end, Alex’s attitude mellows after a rousing bedroom melee, and the discovery that little brothers make useful pretexts for going to a movie that a certain attractive classmate also happens to be attending. Continually whining about his sibling’s behavior and congratulating himself on his own genius, Alex comes across as no prize himself, but there’s enough wish fulfillment here to put readers on his side—whether or not that Micro-Blaster really works. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-55337-886-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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HOME OF THE BRAVE

From the author of the Animorphs series comes this earnest novel in verse about an orphaned Sudanese war refugee with a passion for cows, who has resettled in Minnesota with relatives. Arriving in winter, Kek spots a cow that reminds him of his father’s herd, a familiar sight in an alien world. Later he returns with Hannah, a friendly foster child, and talks the cow’s owner into hiring him to look after it. When the owner plans to sell the cow, Kek becomes despondent. Full of wide-eyed amazement and unalloyed enthusiasm for all things American, Kek is a generic—bordering on insulting—stereotype. His tribe, culture and language are never identified; personal details, such as appearance and age, are vague or omitted. Lacking the quirks and foibles that bring characters to life, Kek seems more a composite of traits designed to instruct readers than an engaging individual in his own right. Despite its lackluster execution, this story’s simple premise and basic vocabulary make it suitable for younger readers interested in the plight of war refugees. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-312-36765-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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A moving exploration of the places we come from and the people who shape us—not to be missed.

SOME PLACES MORE THAN OTHERS

On a birthday trip to New York City, a girl learns about her roots, Harlem, and how to stay true to herself.

Eleven-year-old sneakerhead Amara is struggling to feel seen and heard. A new baby sister is on the way, her mom still wants to put her in dresses, and that birthday trip from the Portland, Oregon, suburbs to New York City that she so desperately wants feels out of reach. When Amara gets a family-history assignment, she is finally able to convince her mom to say yes to the trip, since it will allow Amara to meet her dad’s side of the family in person. In addition to the school project, her mom gives Amara a secret mission: get her dad and grandpa to spend time alone together to repair old wounds. Harlem proves unlike any place Amara has ever been, and as she explores where her father grew up she experiences black history on every street. Watson is a master at character development, with New York City and especially Harlem playing central roles. Through her all-black cast she seamlessly explores issues of identity, self, and family acceptance. Although the ending feels rushed, with no resolution between Amara and her mom, Amara’s concluding poem is powerful.

A moving exploration of the places we come from and the people who shape us—not to be missed. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68119-108-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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