ORPHAN ELEVEN

A fast-paced, intriguing, and surprising orphan story.

Fleeing an orphanage, 11-year-old Lucy finds a home with a traveling circus while searching for her older sister.

For the past five years, Lucy has lived at the Home for Friendless Children, where she stood out as an A student with a beautiful voice until chosen for special lessons with a “university lady.” Subjected to constant criticism and humiliation during these lessons, Lucy begins stuttering and eventually stops speaking. One day, when left unattended outside the orphanage fence, Lucy and three other orphans bolt, hitch a ride to Chicago, and connect with a sympathetic dwarf named Jabo, who works for Saachi’s Circus Spectacular. Under Jabo’s guidance, the three other children find apprenticeships with the circus, but no one will take Lucy on unless she speaks. Unaware the orphanage is desperately hunting for her and actively thwarting her sister’s efforts to find her, plucky Lucy must overcome her fear of speaking, earn a place with the circus, and connect with her sister while uncovering the sinister cause of her selective mutism. Set in 1939, Lucy’s dramatic story plays out against the disparate, but carefully researched and authentically rendered, environments of a bleak orphanage eager to exploit its wards and the colorful, dynamic, diverse circus world eager to welcome four homeless orphans (all evidently white). The author’s note reveals the horrifying reality that inspired Lucy’s story.

A fast-paced, intriguing, and surprising orphan story. (glossary) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-74255-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

WRECKING BALL

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

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

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. 18, 2019

THE WILD ROBOT PROTECTS

From the Wild Robot series , Vol. 3

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant.

Robot Roz undertakes an unusual ocean journey to save her adopted island home in this third series entry.

When a poison tide flowing across the ocean threatens their island, Roz works with the resident creatures to ensure that they will have clean water, but the destruction of vegetation and crowding of habitats jeopardize everyone’s survival. Brown’s tale of environmental depredation and turmoil is by turns poignant, graceful, endearing, and inspiring, with his (mostly) gentle robot protagonist at its heart. Though Roz is different from the creatures she lives with or encounters—including her son, Brightbill the goose, and his new mate, Glimmerwing—she makes connections through her versatile communication abilities and her desire to understand and help others. When Roz accidentally discovers that the replacement body given to her by Dr. Molovo is waterproof, she sets out to seek help and discovers the human-engineered source of the toxic tide. Brown’s rich descriptions of undersea landscapes, entertaining conversations between Roz and wild creatures, and concise yet powerful explanations of the effect of the poison tide on the ecology of the island are superb. Simple, spare illustrations offer just enough glimpses of Roz and her surroundings to spark the imagination. The climactic confrontation pits oceangoing mammals, seabirds, fish, and even zooplankton against hardware and technology in a nicely choreographed battle. But it is Roz’s heroism and peacemaking that save the day.

Hugely entertaining, timely, and triumphant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780316669412

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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