This time-travel tale doesn’t add much to the well-worn gimmick.




Fulton’s debut begins a series for middle-grade readers about two tween girls who inherit a time machine.

Twelve-year-old Carly is devastated when her grandfather dies unexpectedly of a heart attack. He leaves her a box—which he instructs her not to open until she’s 18 or she really needs it—and the contents of his locked workshop, where he died. Of course, Carly and her best friend, Patti, can’t wait to open such a mysterious box, which contains a key and a device. The key goes to a time machine Grampa's friend invented, one that’s so easy to use, the girls can figure it out without an instruction manual; just rewind the device to return to the present. The girls decide to use this incredible invention to sneak backstage at a One Direction concert and spy on the filming of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in Greece. Perhaps these are destinations real pre-adolescent girls would happily choose, but without some central conflict to drive the plot forward, it’s not easy to become invested in the friends’ adventures. Some strong scenes involving bullies suggest a challenge for the girls to which many readers could relate, but this theme is never fully explored. Finally, more than halfway through the book, a real problem comes up: Carly’s parents are fighting, and her dad moves out, leaving her mom very unhappy. While it would have been better to introduce this critical plot point earlier in the story, it does give Carly a compelling reason to use the time machine. She decides to go back to 1989 and prevent her mom and dad from meeting; only after her plot is successfully put into motion does she realize that if her parents never met, she and her brother would never be born. She obviously hasn’t seen Back to the Future.

This time-travel tale doesn’t add much to the well-worn gimmick.

Pub Date: June 1, 2015


Page Count: 208

Publisher: Glimmer Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2015

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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