Drag queens and their many fabulous readers deserve better.

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MIDDLE SCHOOL'S A DRAG, YOU BETTER WERK!

When your (current) dream is to manage the stars, as RuPaul might say, you’d better werk!

Middle schooler Michael Pruitt, 12, white, and gay, wants to be an entrepreneur to impress his paternal grandfather, Pap. Sure, Michael doesn’t really know what he wants to do, but he does know that a good businessperson should always be ready to embrace the next surefire scheme—a strategy that leads Michael to become the agent for Coco Caliente, Mistress of Madness and Mayhem, or, as she’s known around school, Julian Vasquez. While managing Julian/Coco, Michael picks up a handful of other acts, hoping that one wins the end-of-the-year school talent show and a $100 prize. It’s an entertaining-enough setup, but the talented secondary characters come across as much more interesting and likable than wheeler-dealer Michael. He is written as an unusual mix of savvy and naïve and has a distinctly odd understanding of contemporaneous culture, casually name-checking the online Yellow Pages, the PennySaver, and the JCPenney catalog but clueless about RuPaul. The plot driver—his desire to make his already-proud grandfather…er…proud—diminishes next to the quickly referenced and also quickly resolved family issues of Julian and the family addiction problems of friend and crush Colton (also white). In addition to Latinx Julian, prominent diverse characters include Michael’s two best friends, an Indian American boy and a black boy.

Drag queens and their many fabulous readers deserve better. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-51752-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A quirky sci-fi adventure with a surprising layer of political irony.

WE'RE NOT FROM HERE

Who knew the survival of the human race would depend on fitting in at school?

With Earth destroyed, humans have successfully petitioned Planet Choom to take them in as refugees. Narrator Lan Mifune and their family (Lan is never gendered in the text) travel there, arriving to a surprise. During the 20-year journey in bio-suspension asleep, Choom’s government has changed, along with their acceptance of humans, and they are asked to leave immediately. With no other alternative, Lan’s mom, Amora Persaud, who’s on the ship’s Governing Council, is able to negotiate a trial run, in which the Mifune family will prove humans can peacefully assimilate. Being the new kid at school is tough anywhere, but on Choom, Lan must navigate the cultures of the werewolflike Kriks; Ororos, who resemble giant marshmallows; and the Zhuri, who resemble giant mosquitoes and express emotions by secreting specific scents. Things get complicated when the Zhuri government executes a smear campaign against humans even as some privately believe humans can be peaceful if given the chance. It’s up to Lan and their family to prove humans can contribute to society. Rodkey deftly mirrors recent debates about refugees and immigrants, twisting them into a black comedy–sci-fi mashup. Racial and ethnic diversity is purposely shown solely through names, hinting via surname that Lan’s family shares mixed Japanese and Indian heritage. The abrupt resolution might leave some in disbelief, but that’s a small price to pay.

A quirky sci-fi adventure with a surprising layer of political irony. (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7304-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff

THE GREAT SHELBY HOLMES

From the Shelby Holmes series , Vol. 1

A modern Sherlock Holmes retelling brings an 11-year-old black John Watson into the sphere of know-it-all 9-year-old white detective Shelby Holmes.

John's an Army brat who's lived in four states already. Now, with his parents' divorce still fresh, the boy who's lived only on military bases must explore the wilds of Harlem. His new life in 221A Baker St. begins inauspiciously, as before he's even finished moving in, his frizzy-haired neighbor blows something up: "BOOM!" But John's great at making friends, and Shelby certainly seems like an interesting kid to know. Oddly loquacious, brusque, and extremely observant, Shelby's locally famous for solving mysteries. John’s swept up in her detecting when a wealthy, brown-skinned classmate enlists their help in the mysterious disappearance of her beloved show dog, Daisy. Whatever could have happened to the prizewinning Cavalier King Charles spaniel? Has she been swiped by a jealous competitor? Has Daisy’s trainer—mysteriously come into enough money to take a secret weekend in Cozumel—been placing bets against his own dog? Brisk pacing, likable characters, a few silly Holmes jokes ("I'm Petunia Cumberbatch," says Shelby while undercover), and a diverse neighborhood, carefully and realistically described by John, are ingredients for success.

A smart, fresh take on an old favorite makes for a terrific series kickoff . (Mystery. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68119-051-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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